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“Terrific! Don’t: miss it . ” 



— Molly Ivins 

Toxic SludqE 
Is Good foR You 

Ues, Damn Ues A\d tIhe 
P ublic ReIatIons hdusTRy 


JohlN C. STAubER 


SbEldoN Rampton 

Common Courage Press 


First edition, third printing 

Copyright ©1995 by the Center for Media & Democracy 

AO rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or trans- 
mitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including 
photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, 
without permission in writing from the publisher. 

Common Courage Press 
Box 702 

Monroe, Maine 04951 
Phone: (207) 525-0900 
Fax: (207) 525-3068 

Typeset by Strong Silent Type, Madison, Wisconsin 
Cover by Dan Perkins 

Cartoons by Dan Perkins and Kirk Anderson 
Printed on chlorine-free paper 

Library of Congress Cataloging-In-Publication Data 

Stauber, John C. (John Clyde), 1953- 

Toxic sludge is good for you : lies, damn lies and the public rela- 
tions industry / John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton. 
p. cm. 

Includes index. 

ISBN 1-56751-061-2. - ISBN 1-56751-060-4 (pbk.) 

1. Public relations--Corporations--United States. 2. Industrial 
publicity- -United States- -Corrupt practices. 3. Corporations— Corrupt 
practices—United States. 4. Public relations firms—Cornipl practices— 
United States. I. Rampton, Sheldon, 1957- II. Tide. 

FID59.6.76S72 1995 

659.2'09723-dc20 95-21185 



Acknowledgments iv 

Introduction: Torches of Liberty by Mark Dowie 1 

1 Burning Books Before They’re Printed 5 

2 The Art of the Hustle and 

the Science of Propaganda 17 

3 Smokers’ Hacks 25 

4 Spinning the Atom 33 

5 Spies For Hire 47 

6 Divide and Conquer 65 

7 Poisoning the Grassroots 77 

8 The Sludge Hits the Fan 99 

9 Silencing Spring 123 

10 The Torturers’ Lobby 143 

11 All the News That’s Fit to Print 179 

12 Taking Back Your Own Back Yard 197 


PR Industry Leaders 207 

The Clorox PR Crisis Plan 209 

Suggested Reading 213 

Notes 215 

Index 227 



We are especially grateful to investigative journalist Joel Bleifuss. 
Joel’s extensive writings, which appeared under his byline in PR 
Watch and In These Times, have been incorporated in these chap- 
ters: “Poisoning the Grassroots,” “Silencing Spring” and “All the News 
That’s Fit to Print.” 

Others whose research or writings have been incorporated in this 
book are Keith Ashdown, Jill Cashen, Ronnie Cummins, Rob Iner- 
feld and Peter Montague. Thanks to Liz Chilsen for permission to 
use portions from Friends In Deed in “The Torturers’ Lobby.” Thanks 
also for pennission to incorporate material by Sheldon Rampton pub- 
lished previously in Z Magazine under the title, “Colombia: The 
Bosnia In Our Own Backyard.” 

We wish to express our gratitude to the staffs and boards of 
the following nonprofit foundations: CS Fund, Educational Founda- 
tion of America, Foundation for Deep Ecology, HKH Foundation, 
Ottinger Foundation, Florence and John Schumann Foundation, Stem 
Family Fund and Town Creek Foundation. 

The following friends have provided support, ideas, encourage- 
ment and inspiration: Grant Abert, Greg Bates, Elva Barnes, Audrey 
Bedwell, Laura Berger, Eileen Cyncor, Mark Dowie, Carol Bernstein 
Ferry, William H. Ferry, Wade Greene, Cherrie Ivey, Linda Jameson, 
Kevin McCauley, Robert McChesney, Joe Mendelson, David Merritt, 
Alida Messinger, Dan Perkins, Renee Rampton, Scott Robbe, Debra 
Schwarze, Flic Shooter, John H. Stauber, Martin Teitel, Nancy Ward, 
Ken Whyte, Walda Wood and Winifred Woodmansee. 



Torches of LibERTy 

by Mark Dowie 

On the surface it seemed like an ordinary publicity stunt for 
“female emancipation,” the pre-Depression equivalent of women’s 
liberation. A contingent of New York debutantes marched down 
Fifth Avenue in the 1929 Easter Parade, each openly lighting and 
smoking cigarettes. It was the first time in the memory of most Amer- 
icans that any woman who wasn’t a prostitute had been seen smok- 
ing in public. 

It was dubbed the “torches of liberty contingent” by Edward 
Bernays, its brilliant behind-the-scenes organizer. Bemays, a nephew 
of Sigmund Freud, later admitted that he had been paid a tidy sum 
to orchestrate the march by George Washington Hill, president of 
the American Tobacco Company. But long before the public learned 
who had engineered the parade, it had achieved its goal of break- 
ing the taboo against female smoking. Within months, in fact, the 
politest of American ladies were puffing in public and sales of Hill’s 
Lucky Strikes were soaring. 

The event is still hailed in public relations lore as a “triumph.” 
Some people consider it the coup that launched a whole new, dis- 
tinctively American industry. 

Most of us are aware of public relations. “That’s just a lot of PR,” 
we say, with smug confidence that we have pierced the veil of hype 
around us rather than be taken in by some anonymous huckster. 
But few outside the public relations industry know how well PR 




really works, and fewer still realize how often we are persuaded by 
it. Nor do many of us know how much of our “news” and other 
information originates from the desks of public relations practition- 
ers. “The best PR is never noticed,” says the proud unwritten slogan 
of the trade. 

The sad truth, which this book amply documents, is that PR execu- 
tives are today mediating public communications as never before. 
“Flacks” are no longer mere authors of press memos, “video news 
releases” and pre-packaged articles used by lazy reporters and 
editors. Nor are they simply “builders of bridges into prosperity ... in 
a fly-by-night, flim-flam business," as theatrical publicist Ben Sonnen- 
berg once described his chosen profession. That too we now accept 
about PR. But the intricate practice of relating to the public has 
evolved even further and requires the kind of close examination that 
John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton provide. 

PR has become a communications medium in its own right, an 
industry designed to alter perception, reshape reality and manufac- 
ture consent. It is run by a fraternity carefully organized so that only 
insiders can observe their peers at work. Veteran PR professionals 
can read the front page of almost any newspaper in the country, or 
watch a segment of broadcast news and identify which of their peers 
“placed,” “handled” or “massaged” a specific stoiy — even which 
executives arranged the “placement,” managed the “spin” or wrote 
the CEO’s quotes. But can you or I? Or do we assume, as we are 
supposed to, that some dogged reporter, trained and determined to 
be the objective “eyes and ears of the public,” set out to research, 
investigate and report his or her findings as accurately as possible? 

This book is of particular interest to me as a journalist, not only 
because I spend so much of my time on the phone with “commu- 
nications directors," “public information officers" and “community 
relations liaisons,” but also because about a third of America’s cur- 
rently practicing PR men and women began their careers as jour- 
nalists, where they learned how to investigate people and institutions, 
how newsrooms work and how to write a compelling and infor- 
mative story. In a strange way many of them still are journalists. Aca- 
demicians who study media now estimate that about 40% of all 
“news” flows virtually unedited from the public relations offices, 
prompting a prominent PR exec to boast that “the best PR ends up 
looking like news.” 

Also disconcerting is the fact that the 150,000 PR practitioners in 
the US outnumber the country’s 130,000 reporters (and with the 



media downsizing its newsrooms, the gap is widening). Furthennore, 
some of the country’s best journalism schools now send more than 
half their graduates directly into public relations (an almost traitor- 
ous career choice to traditionalists like myself who instruct students 
how to handle PR executives and circumvent the barriers they erect 
between the truth and the story they want told about their clients). 

With media becoming dependent on PR for more and more of its 
content, public relations executives have become inordinately pow- 
erful. Even the most energetic reporters know that they have to be 
somewhat deferential in the presence of a powerful publicist. No 
one on a national beat can afford to get on the wrong side of a Frank 
Mankiewicz or a Harold Burson knowing that their firms (Hill & 
Knowlton and Burson-Marsteller) together represent a third of the 
most quotable sources in the country. 

People often equate public relations with the advertising indus- 
try, and in fact almost every major Madison Avenue agency, from 
J. Walter Thompson to Young & Rubicam, owns or is paired with a 
large PR firm. But PR firms carry out activities that are often consid- 
erably more secretive and sinister than designing clever slogans and 
video imagery. The modern “account” managed by a PR/advertis- 
ing giant can now package a global campaign that includes a strate- 
gic blend of “paid media” (advertising) and “free media” (public 
relations). Add to that some of the other standard services offered 
by most PR firms — including “crisis management,” industrial espio- 
nage, organized censorship and infiltration of civic and political 
groups — and you have a formidable combination of persuasive tech- 
niques available to large corporations and anyone else who can 
afford to hire the services of a PR firm. You know you’re looking at 
propaganda when you open your newspaper and notice an ad for 
General Electric, but you’re less likely to notice the rest of the mix — 
the story about GE that appears on page one, which may well have 
been placed by the same firm diat placed the ad, and may in addi- 
tion have deployed a private investigator to infiltrate and subvert the 
efforts of an activist organization attempting to combat GE’s envi- 
ronmental practices. The independence of the press, already chal- 
lenged by the influence of Madison Avenue, is now being further 
compromised by the interdependence of advertising and PR. 

Corporations use the term “integrated communications” to 
describe this massive institutional meld, and its consequences are 



profound. The methods of modern advertising, steeped in sublimi- 
nal psychology and imagery aimed at the subconscious, have proven 
themselves effective at selling cars, mouthwash and cigarettes. Today 
similar methods are used almost reflexively to promote and protect 
ideas, policies, candidates, ideologies, tyrants and hazardous prod- 
ucts. As propaganda, once the honorable purview of speech writers, 
editorialists and orators, bypasses the conscious mind and is targeted 
at the subconscious, the consequences for culture, democracy and 
public health are staggering to contemplate. 

As Stauber and Rampton clearly demonstrate in chapter after chap- 
ter of this book, a single public relations professional with access to 
media, a basic understanding of mass psychology and a fistful of 
dollars can unleash in society forces that make permanent winners 
out of otherwise-evident losers — whether they be products, poli- 
ticians, corporations or ideas. This is an awesome power we give 
to an industry that gravitates to wealth, offers surplus power and 
influence to those who need it least, and operates largely beyond 
public view. 

It is critical that consumers of media in democratic societies under- 
stand the origin of information and the process by which it is 
mediated, particularly when they are being deceived. Titus it is essen- 
tial that they understand public relations. By offering between-the- 
lines analysis of PR’s role in some of the most important stories of 
our time, this book leaves its readers with a much better sense of 
what is genuine. By deconstructing the modem triumphs of PR, it 
also shows how objective inquiry becomes subsumed by manufac- 
tured information, which either changes the public’s perception of 
an event or the outcome of the event itself. In such an environment, 
facts cannot survive, nor can truth prevail. 

Mark Dowie, a former publisher and editor of Mother Jones maga- 
zine, is the recipient of 14 major journalism awards, including an 
unprecedented three National Magazine awards. 


BuRNiiNq Books 


Who kills a Man kills a reasonable creature, God’s Image; but he who 
destroys a good Book, kills reason itself, kills the Image of God. 

“All documents ... are confidential,” warned the September 7, 
1990 memo from Betsy Gullickson, senior vice-president at the giant 
Ketchum public relations firm. “Make sure that everything — even 
notes to yourself — are so stamped. . . . Remember that we have a 
shredder; give documents to Lynette for shredding. All conversations 
are confidential, too. Please be careful talking in the halls, in eleva- 
tors, in restaurants, etc. All suppliers must sign confidentiality agree- 
ments. If you are faxing documents to the client, another office or 
to anyone else, call them to let them know that a fax is coming. If 
you are expecting a fax, you or your Account Coordinator should 
stand by the machine and wait for it. We don’t want those docu- 
ments lying around for anybody to pick up.” 1 

Gullickson, a 1969 graduate of Northwestern University’s presti- 
gious Medill School of Journalism, 2 understood perfectly the need 
for secrecy. If word leaked out, the media might have had a field 
day with Ketchum’s plan to scuttle a groundbreaking environmen- 
tal book even before it went to press. 

The stakes were high for Ketchum’s client, the California Raisin 
Advisory Board (CALRAB), the business association of California 
raisin growers. In 1986, CALRAB had scored big with a series of 




clever TV commercials using the “California Dancing Raisins.” The 
singing, dancing raisins, animated through a technique known as 
“claymation,” were so popular that they had ttanscended their TV- 
commercial origins. Fan mail addressed to the Raisins was forwarded 
to Ketchum, along with phone inquiries from the media and public 
clamoring for live public performances. Ketchum obligingly supplied 
live, costumed characters dressed as the Raisins, who performed at 
the White House Easter Egg Roll and Christmas Tree Lighting, Macy’s 
Thanksgiving Day Parade, and “A Claymation Christmas Celebration” 
on the CBS television network. 

In the summer of 1988, the Raisins were sent out on a 27-city 
national tour, beginning in New York and ending in Los Angeles. 
Along the way, they performed in hotel lobbies, children's hospitals 
and convalescent centers and supermarkets. In several cities, they 
were greeted by the mayor and given keys to the city. They visited 
historic landmarks, singing and dancing their version of “I Heard It 
Through the Grapevine.” They performed at a charity benefit hon- 
oring singer Ray Charles and his claymation counterpart, “Raisin Ray.” 
Over 3,000 people joined the California Dancing Raisins Fan Club, 
and a research poll found that the Raisins were second in popular- 
ity only to comedian Bill Cosby. 3 

For CALRAB, of course, the real payoff came in raisin sales, which 
had risen 17 percent since the Dancing Raisins were first introduced. 
Behind the scenes, however, trouble was brewing, and Gullickson’s 
secret memo outlined Ketchum’s plan to “manage the crisis.” 

The “crisis” was a science writer named David Steinman. In 1985 
while working for the LA Weekly, Steinman had written a story about 
fish contaminated from toxic waste dumped near his home in the 
Santa Monica Bay area, and was shocked when a test of his own 
blood showed astronomical levels of both DDT and PCBs. Steinman 
had read the research linking these chemicals to higher rates of 
cancer and other diseases, and started “wondering how many other 
poisons were in the food I ate. It started me asking why govern- 
ment officials, who had known about the dumping for years, had 
withheld the information for so long.” In his search for the answers 
to these questions, Steinman began a five-year investigation, using 
the Freedom of Information Act to obtain obscure government 
research reports. Based on this research, he had written a book, titled 
Diet for a Poisoned Planet, scheduled for publication in 1990. 

Steinman’s investigation had uncovered evidence showing that 
hundreds of toxic carcinogens and other contaminants, mostly 

Burning Books Before They’re Printed 


pesticides, are found routinely in US foods from raisins to yogurt to 
beef. For example, government inspectors found “raisins had 110 
industrial chemical and pesticide residues in sixteen samples.’’ Diet 
for a Poisoned Planet ‘recommends that people avoid any but organ- 
ically-grown raisins raised without pesticides. 4 

By compiling this information in book form, Diet for a Poisoned 
Planet enables readers to make safer food choices. But before shop- 
pers can use the information, they must first hear about the book, 
through media reviews and interviews with the author during a pub- 
licity campaign in the weeks after the book is published. And the 
California Raisin Advisory Board wanted to make sure that Steinman’s 
book was dead on arrival. 

PR firms, of course, are the experts at organizing publicity cam- 
paigns. So who better to launch an rmri-publicity campaign, to con- 
vince journalists to ignore Steinman and his book? 

For Spies’ Eyes Only 

Our copy of Betsy Gullickson’s memo came from an employee of 
Ketchum PR. Despite the risk of being fired, conscience drove this 
coiporate whistleblower to reveal Ketchum’s campaign aimed at con- 
cealing the possible health risks from high pesticide levels in Cali- 
fornia raisins and other foods. 

“I find it very discouraging when I read in the paper that cancer 
among children has increased dramatically, and they don’t know 
why,” our source explained. “I believe that people have the right to 
know about the little Dancing Raisins and the possibility that they 
might be harming children. There is a new censorship in this coun- 
try, based on nothing but dollars and cents.” 

According to the 1994 O'Dwyer’s Directory of PR Finns, Ketchum 
is the sixth largest public relations company in the United States, 
receiving net fees of over $50 million per year. Headquartered in 
New York City, Ketchum represents a number of corporate food 
clients, including Dole Foods, Wendy’s, the Potato Board, Oscar 
Mayer Foods, Miller Brewing, Kikkoman, H.J. Heinz, the Beef Indus- 
try Council, the California Almond Board, and the California Raisin 
Advisory Board. 5 In addition to writing press releases and organiz- 
ing news conferences, Ketchum aggressively markets its services in 
“crisis management,” a growing specialty within the PR industry. In 
a profile written for O Dwyer’s PR Services Report, Ketchum boasted 
of its experience handling PR problems ranging “from toxic waste 
crises to low-level nuclear wastes, from community relations at Super- 



Ketchum Public Relations nor the White House has any right to inter- 
fere with your access to good food or good reading materials. 

You have never voted for a politician who campaigned on a 
pledge that he would work to limit your access to information about 
the food you eat. You never voted for Ketchum PR, and, if you are 
like most people, you’ve never even heard of them. You never gave 
your consent for them to become involved in your life, and in return, 
they have never bothered to ask for your consent. After all, they’re 
not working for you. They’re working for the California Raisin Advi- 
sory Board. 

One of the most cherished freedoms in a democracy is the right 
to freely participate in the “marketplace of ideas.” We value this free- 
dom because without it, all our other freedoms are impossible to 
defend. In a democracy every idea, no matter how absurd or offen- 
sive, is allowed to compete freely for our attention and acceptance. 
Turn on the TV, and you’ll find plenty of absurd and offensive exam- 
ples of this principle in action. On the Sunday public affairs shows 
you’ll find Republicans, Democrats, Republicans who love too much, 
and Democrats who love Republicans. On “A Current Affair” or 
“Oprah Winfrey,” you’ll find self-proclaimed werewolves, worship- 
pers of Madonna, and doomsday prophets from the lunatic fringes 
of American society. 

Unfortunately, what you won ’t find can kill you. 

Diet for a Poisoned Planet is a serious, important contribution to 
the public debate over health, the environment, and food safety. It 
fell victim to a PR campaign designed to prevent it from ever reach- 
ing the “marketplace of ideas.” And it isn’t alone. Here are some 
other examples: 

• In 1992, John Robbins was promoting his book, May All Be Fed , 
which advocates a strict vegetarian diet. He became the target of 
an anti-book campaign by Morgan & Myers PR, working on behalf 
of the world’s largest milk promotion group, the National Dairy 
Board. Based in Jefferson, Wisconsin, Morgan & Myers is the 
nation’s 42nd largest PR firm, with about sixty employees and a 
1993 net fee intake of $3.7 million. Within its field of specializa- 
tion — representing agribusiness interests — Morgan & Myers ranks 
fifth in the United States. Its clients include Kraft, the Philip Morris 
subsidiary that buys and sells most of America’s cheese; Upjohn, 
a major producer of antibiotics used on livestock; and Sandoz, a 
manufacturer of atrazine herbicide, a carcinogen that contaminates 
thousands of water wells. 14 

Burning Books Before They’re Printed 


THIS MODERN WORLD by Tom Tomorrow 

querading AS iV£WS... SINCE. AS P.R. FIRMS 


HEWS WORKS. ..STEP OWE: A corporation 

relations firm... 


thank you for 

IT. 1 

tive RE PCiRTI NS... 



As with Ketchum’s California Raisins campaign, Morgan & Myers 
used behind-the-scenes contacts to undennine Robbins' publicity 
tour, thereby limiting his book’s public exposure and readership. 
A Morgan & Myers memo of September 17, 1992, states that “M&M 
currently is monitoring coverage of Robbins’ media tour,” to 
counter his advice that readers cut hack their consumption of dairy 
products. The memo was widely distributed to key dairy industry 
contacts. It contained the schedule of Robbins’ book tour and pro- 
vided this tactical warning: “Do not issue any news release or state- 
ment. Doing so only calls attention to his message. . . . Ideally, 
any response should come from a third party, uninvolved in the 
dairy industry.’’ 15 

• The September 22, 1981, Washington Post reported that “a single 
telephone call from a DuPont public relations man to the Book-of- 
the-Month Club financially doomed an unflattering history of the 



DuPont family and its businesses.” The book by author Gerard 
Colby Zilg, titled DuPont: Behind the Nylon Curtain , was a “relent- 
lessly critical’' expose of the business and personal affairs of the 
wealthy DuPont family. After a copy of the manuscript found its 
way into the hands of the DuPonts, they deployed PR represen- 
tative Harold G. Brown Jr., who phoned the Book-of-the-Month 
Club editor to say that several people at DuPont considered the 
book “scurrilous” and “actionable.” 

The Book-of-the-Month Club had already contracted with Pren- 
tice-Hall, the publisher, to feature DuPont as a November selec- 
tion of its Fonune Book Club, but a few days after Brown’s phone 
call the club called Prentice-Hall to back out of the deal. Appar- 
ently intimidated by the implied threat of a DuPont lawsuit, Pren- 
tice-Hall made no effort to enforce its contract with the 
Book-of-the-Month Club or to seek money damages. Instead, the 
publisher reduced the book’s press mn from 15,000 to 10,000 
copies, and cut its advertising budget from $15,000 to $5,500, even 
though the book was getting favorable reviews in major publi- 
cations. The Los Angeles Times, for example, called it “a vastly 
readable book and ... a very important one.” Peter Grenquist, 
president of Prentice-Hall’s trade book division, ordered the book’s 
editor, Bram Cavin, not to discuss the matter with the author. In 
October, three months later, conscience finally drove Cavin to dis- 
obey Grenquist’s order and inform the author of the phone call 
from DuPont. Cavin was later fired for being “unproductive.” 16 

• PR firms also campaigned against the book Beyond Beef, by activist 
Jeremy Rifkin. Beyond Beef recommends that people stop eating 
beef for ethical, health and environmental reasons. Its message 
has been loudly denounced by both the Beef Council and the 
National Dairy Board, clients of Ketchum and Morgan & Myers, 
respectively. Rifkin’s enemies hired an infiltrator to pose as a vol- 
unteer in his office. The spy — Seymour “Bud” Vestermark, whose 
infiltrations of other organizations are detailed in chapter 5 of this 
book — obtained Rifkin’s book tour itinerary, after which all hell 
broke loose. 17 

In The War Against The Greens, author David Helvarg reports 
that Rifkin’s spring 1992 national book tour “had to be canceled 
after it was repeatedly sabotaged. Melinda Mullin, Beyond Beefs 
publicist at Dutton Books, says . . . radio and TV producers who’d 

Bunting Books Before They're Printed 


scheduled Rifkin’s appearance began receiving calls from a woman 
claiming to be Mullin cancelling or misrepresenting Rifkin’s plans. 
Finally, Mullin had to begin using a code name with the produc- 
ers. Liz Einbinder, a San Francisco-based radio producer who had 
had Beyond Beef on her desk for several weeks, was surprised to 
receive angry calls and an anonymous package denouncing Rifkin 
within hours of placing her first call to Mullin. This led to specu- 
lation that Dutton’s New York phones might be tapped.” 18 

Making the World Safe from Democracy 

The public relations or “PR” industry did not even exist prior to the 
twentieth century, but it has grown steadily and appears poised for 
even more dramatic growth in the future. No one knows exactly how 
much money is spent each year in the United States on public rela- 
tions, but $10 billion is considered a conservative estimate. “Publicity” 
was once the work of carnival hawkers and penny-ante hustlers 
smoking cheap cigars and wearing cheap suits. Today’s PR profes- 
sionals are recruited from the ranks of former journalists, retired 
politicians and eager-beaver college graduates anxious to rise in the 
corporate world. They hobnob internationally with corporate CEOs, 
senators and US presidents. They use sophisticated psychology, opin- 
ion polling and complex computer databases so refined that they 
can pinpoint the prevailing “psychographics” of individual city neigh- 
borhoods. Press agents used to rely on news releases and publicity 
stunts to attract attention for their clients. In today’s electronic age, 
the PR industry uses 800-numbers and telemarketing, advanced data- 
bases, computer bulletin boards, simultaneous multi-location fax 
transmission and “video news releases” — entire news stories, written, 
filmed and produced by PR firms and transmitted by satellite feed 
to hundreds of TV stations around the world. Video news releases 
are designed to be indistinguishable from genuine news, and are 
typically used as “story segments” on TV news shows without any 
attribution or disclaimer indicating that they are in fact subtle paid 
advertisements. “Most of what you see on TV is, in effect, a canned 
PR product. Most of what you read in the paper and see on televi- 
sion is not news," says a senior vice-president with Gray & Com- 
pany public relations. 19 

The PR industry also orchestrates many of the so-called “grass- 
roots citizen campaigns” that lobby Washington, state and local gov- 
ernments. Unlike genuine grassroots movements, however, these 



industry-generated “astroturf’ movements are controlled by the cor- 
porate interests that pay their bills. On behalf of the Philip Morris 
tobacco company, for example, Burson-Marsteller (the world’s largest 
PR firm) created the “National Smokers Alliance” to mobilize smokers 
into a grassroots lobby for “smokers' rights.” Deceptive PR has 
become so cynical that sometimes it staggers belief. To fight former 
Attorney General Ed Meese’s Pornography Commission, Playboy and 
Penthouse magazines had Gray & Company PR create a front group 
called “Americans for Constitutional Freedom,” to “assist in coun- 
tering the idea that those who opposed the commission’s efforts were 
motivated only by financial self-interest” or were “somehow ‘pro- 
pornography.’ ” 20 To defeat environmentalists, PR firms have created 
green-sounding front groups such as “The Global Climate Coalition” 
and the “British Columbia Forest Alliance.” 

In defense of these activities, the PR industry claims that it is simply 
participating in the democratic process and and contributing to public- 
debate. In reality, the industry carefully conceals most of its activi- 
ties from public view. This invisibility is part of a deliberate strategy 
for manipulating public opinion and government policy. “Persuasion, 
by its definition, is subtle,” says another PR exec. “The best PR ends 
up looking like news. You never know when a PR agency is being 
effective; you’ll just find your views slowly shifting .” 21 

Today’s PR industry is related to democracy in the same way that 
prostitution is related to sex. When practiced voluntarily for love, 
both can exemplify human communications at its best. When diey 
are bought and sold, however, they are transformed into something 
hidden and sordid. There is nothing wrong with many of the tech- 
niques used by the PR industry — lobbying, grassroots organizing, 
using the news media to put ideas before the public. As individuals, 
we not only have the right to engage in these activities, we have a 
responsibility to participate in the decisions that shape our society 
and our lives. Ordinary citizens have the right to organize for social 
change — better working conditions, health care, fair prices for family 
farmers, safe food, freedom from toxins, social justice, a humane 
foreign policy. But ordinary citizens cannot afford the multi-million- 
dollar campaigns that PR firms undertake on behalf of their special 
interest clients, usually large corporations, business associations and 
governments. Raw money enables the PR industry to mobilize private 
detectives, attorneys, broadcast faxes, satellite feeds, sophisticated 
information systems and other expensive, high-tech resources to out- 
maneuver, overpower and outlast true citizen reformers. 

Burning Books Before They're Printed 


Talking Back to the Flacks 

Although the public relations industry is a twentieth-century phenom- 
enon, the art of influencing opinion has a long history, dating in fact 
to the days of ancient Athens, the first recorded western democracy. 
Aristotle’s Rhetoric remains one of the most insightful books ever 
written on the subject. Aristotle argues that rhetoric is an “art” as 
opposed to the sciences, which are governed by logic. Tire sciences 
deal with measurable quantities, known facts, and principles of proof 
based on propositions which can definitely be labeled “true” or 
“false.” In social life, however, people are often confronted with 
situations in which many of the facts are unknown and unknow- 
able. In addition, competing sectors within society have conflicting 
interests. It is often impossible to say for sure whether a proposition 
is “true” or “false,” and scientific logic is incapable of evaluating 
statements whose degree of truth can only be approximated using 
concepts like “maybe,” “probably,” or “probably not.” Instead of 
logic, therefore, people turn to rhetoric, the ait of communication 
and persuasion. 

Aristotle recognized that rhetoric could be used to mislead as well 
as to enlighten the public. Persuasive speakers could lead their audi- 
ence into unwise choices. For this reason, he argued that rhetoric 
should be widely taught and understood, so that the wise members 
of society would be able to contend effectively with the rhetoric of 
the unwise. Society would be best served if the public could choose 
from a range of contending arguments, and if people were trained 
in the skills necessary to recognize manipulative uses of rhetoric. 

Aristotle’s analysis is over 2,300 years old, but it offers the best 
solution that we have found to the problem of democracy in our 
own age — the age of public relations. Today’s opinion manipulation 
industry is a powerful giant, but like Goliath, it is a giant with a fatal 
weakness. When the public is educated about its techniques, it often 
loses its ability to mislead and manipulate. In Nevada, for example, 
Don Williams, president of Altamira Communications and widely 
known as a Nevada “political king maker,” attempted in 1992 to per- 
suade the state to serve as a national storage site for nuclear waste. 
When the nuclear industry’s PR activities were exposed in Nevada 
newspapers, public opinion turned decisively against the plan. 22 

The founders of the American revolution argued that the price of 
freedom is eternal vigilance. “Every man ought to exercise the 
faculties of his mind, and think and examine for himself, that he 
may be the less likely to be imposed on, and that he may form as 



accurate an opinion as possible of the measures of his ruler,” wrote 
one farmer who campaigned against the British. Christopher Gad- 
sen, another American revolutionary, argued that it was easier to stop 
the work of “crafty, dissembling, insinuating men” before rather than 
after they “carry their point against you.” 23 The price of democracy 
is the same today as it was in the days of Samuel Adams and Thomas 
Jefferson, and the PR industry is a haven for many of the “crafty, dis- 
sembling men” we need to guard against. 

The PR industry is a little like the title character in the 1933 Claude 
Rains movie, The Invisible Man. Rains plays an evil scientist who 
attempts to rule the world, committing crimes such as robbery and 
murder and using his invisibility to evade detection. The Invisible 
Man was an early special effects film, using hidden wires and other 
tricks to make ashtrays, guns, and other objects float in mid-air as 
though they were manipulated by an invisible hand. 

Instead of ashtrays and guns, the PR industry seeks to man- 
ipulate public opinion and government policy. But it can only 
manipulate while it remains invisible. 

We like to think of this book as the literary equivalent of a nice, 
big can of fluorescent orange spray paint. We are spray-painting the 
Invisible Man in order to make him visible again. We want the public 
at large to recognize the skilled propagandists of industry and gov- 
ernment who are affecting public opinion and determining public 
policies, while remaining (they hope) out of public view. 

In a democracy, everyone needs to know who is really in charge, 
who makes the decisions, and in whose interest. Democracies func- 
tion best without Invisible Men. 


The Art of tIhe HustIe 
ANcI tIhe SciENCE of PltOpACjANdA 

A state is bound to be more dangerous if it is not governed openly 
by the people, but secretly by political forces that are not widely 
known or understood. 


In 1836 legendary showman P.T. Bamum began his career by buy- 
ing an old Negro slave woman named Joice Heth and exhibiting her 
to the public as “George Washington’s childhood nursemaid.” 

Joice Heth claimed to be 160 years old. Was she for real? The 
man who coined the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” 
kept the public guessing through a clever series of forged letters to 
the editors of New York newspapers. Written by Bamum himself 
and signed by various fake names, some of the letters denounced 
Bamum as a fraud. In other letters, also written by Bamum, he 
praised himself as a great man who was performing a service by 
giving the public a chance to see George Washington’s “mammy.” 
The letters succeeded in stirring up controversy. Joice Heth was dis- 
cussed in news reports and editorial columns, and the public turned 
out in droves to see for themselves. Bamum collected as much as 
$1500 per week from New Yorkers who came to see the pipe-smok- 
ing old Negro woman. 

When Joice Heth died, doctors performed an autopsy and esti- 
mated her true age at around eighty. Bamum handled the situation 
like the PR pro that he was. He said he was shocked, deeply shocked, 
at the way this woman had deceived him. 1 




Bamum knew that in his publicity for “the greatest show on earth,” 
it didn’t matter whether people called him a scoundrel or a saint. 
The important thing was that the newspapers spelled his name right, 
and that they mentioned him often. He was one of the first people 
to manipulate the news for fun and profit. 

The 1830s marked the beginnings of what we now call the “mass 
media” with the rise of “penny presses” such as the New York Sim 
which used low newsstand prices to draw in a large readership. 
Because of their larger circulation, they were able to charge enough 
for ads that advertisers, rather than readers, became their main source 
of income. This change also gave advertisers more power to influ- 
ence the news and editorial sections. Newspapers offered “free puff 
stories” to paying advertisers — a practice which is widely denied but 
still common today, especially in the business, food and automobile 
sections of newspapers. 2 

This transformation deepened as the years progressed. Accord- 
ing to James Melvin Lee’s History of American Journalism, it was pos- 
sible by the end of the 19th century “to insert at a higher cost almost 
any adveitisement disguised as a bit of news. Sometimes these paid 
reading notices of advertisers were distinguished by star or dagger, 
but more frequently there was no sign to indicate to the readers that 
the account had been bought and paid for and was not a regular 
news item.” 3 

By disguising paid notices as “news,” companies tried to bypass 
readers’ innate skepticism toward advertising. Then, as now, read- 
ers understood that advertisements were “propaganda,” and they 
were more likely to believe a story if it seemed to come from an 
independent reporter. 

The First Flacks 

Before the public relations industry existed, companies employed 
“press agents” to feed advertisements and publicity to newspapers. 
Many early press agents worked for circuses, Broadway shows and 
other entertainment enterprises. Often they were recruited from the 
ranks of underpaid reporters anxious for a way to earn more money. 
They used flattery, pleading and, of course, payments of money to 
grease the wheels for their clients’ publicity. They were colorful, 
scheming, desperate men, drifters and con artists with bad reputa- 
tions, constantly scrounging for clients and begging for favors. 4 In 
1911, writer Will Irwin described them as “the only group of men 
proud of being called liars.” 5 

The Art of the Hustle and the Science of Propaganda 


Like P.T. Barnum, the early press agents were more interested in 
generating publicity for their clients than in building “images” or “rep- 
utations.” The railroads, utility companies and big businesses like 
Standard Oil were just starting to learn that their profit margins could 
be affected by the public’s opinion of them. When a reporter sug- 
gested that the New York Central Railroad should adjust its train 
schedules to accommodate the public, New York Central President 
William Vanderbilt angrily replied, “The public be damned!” His 
remark provoked public outrage, and attacks by the New York leg- 
islature forced him to sell off part of his railroad holdings. 6 

At the turn of the century, social movements rose up to challenge 
the power of big business: the Grange movement, the Socialist Party, 
the Greenbackers, the Populists and Progressives. The labor move- 
ment was growing, and radical agitators were urging exploited farm- 
ers to “raise less com and more hell.” President Teddy Roosevelt 
coined the word “muckrakers" to describe the growing number of 
journalists who were dedicating themselves to exposing the cor- 
ruption of business and government. 7 William Randolph Hearst’s 
newspapers attacked privilege, monopoly, corporate power, and the 
“plunderbund” of banks and trusts. The public-be-damned attitude 
of “robber barons” like Vanderbilt turned public opinion against the 
railroads, prompting Congress and state legislatures to enact over 
2,000 laws affecting the industry between 1908 and 1913. 8 

Ivy Lee was one of the first consultants to offer the service of cor- 
porate image-building. According to PR industry historian Scott 
Cutlip, Lee worked for J.P. Morgan’s International Harvester Com- 
pany to stave off antitrust action and later for the Pennsylvania Rail- 
road, which hired him in 1906 to “take ‘offensive’ measures as it were, 
to place our ‘case’ before the public.” 9 This led in turn to work as 
personal representative of railroad magnate E.H. Harriman. In 1914, 
Lee was hired as counsel to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. The Rockefeller 
family had become widely hated because of the ruthless, monopo- 
listic business tactics of their company, Standard Oil. Lee is widely 
credited (incorrectly, according to T.J. Ross, his former business part- 
ner) for advising John Sr. to soften his image as a cold, sinister tycoon 
by carrying a pocketful of dimes to give away to children whenever 
he was seen in public. 10 

Lee invented the public relations specialty that is today known as 
“crisis management”: helping clients put the best possible “spin” on 
a bad situation. At the time he went to work for the railroads, acci- 
dents were common, and the railroad companies dealt with the 



situation by withholding information and using bribes such as free 
railroad passes to suppress reports of accidents and their costs in 
lives and property. Lee had worked previously as a newspaper 
reporter, and knew that this approach often invited suspicion and 
bad publicity. As an alternative, he proposed an “open policy” of 
providing information to the press. Shortly after he went to work for 
the Pennsylvania Railroad, a wreck occurred. Instead of trying to sup- 
press the story, Lee invited reporters to travel to the scene at the rail- 
road’s expense and set up facilities to assist them once they got there. 
Company executives thought Lee was crazy, but they changed their 
minds after they discovered that his “open” strategy won them more 
favorable coverage than the old approach . 11 

To advertise his policy of openness, Lee distributed a “Declara- 
tion of Principles” to newspapers across the country which is often 
quoted today in public relations textbooks: 

This is not a secret press bureau. All our work is done in the open. 

We aim to supply new's. This is not an advertising agency; if you think 
any of our matter ought properly to go to your business office, do 
not use it. Our matter is accurate. Further details on any subject treated 
will be supplied promptly, and any editor will be assisted most cheer- 
fully in verifying directly any statement of fact. ... In brief, our plan 
is, frankly, and openly, on behalf of business concerns and public 
institutions, to supply to the press and public of the United States 
prompt and accurate information concerning subjects w'hich it is of 
value and interest to the public to know about . 12 

According to Cutlip, Lee’s approach to PR was not limited to 
putting “the most favorable light” on corporate activities. He saw him- 
self as a counselor who studied public opinion and advised com- 
panies how to “shape their affairs” so that “when placed before the 
public they will be approved.” His standard prescription was, “Set 
your house in order, then tell the public you have done so .” 13 
In practice, however, Cutlip admits, this “two-w'ay street” approach 
to public relations was limited by the fact that Lee’s clients were 
engaged in activities that the public would never be likely to approve. 
In fact, Lee’s first job for the Rockefellers was to counter bad pub- 
licity following their brutal union-busting tactics in the Ludlow Mas- 
sacre, in which Colorado state militia and company guards used 
machine guns to fire on a tent colony of striking mine workers, killing 
women and children. Lee responded with a series of pro-Rockefeller 
bulletins titled “The Struggle in Colorado for Industrial Freedom.” 
According to Ray Hiebert, Lee’s biographer, “most of the bulletins 

The Art of the Hustle and the Science of Propaganda 


contained matter which on the surface was true but which presented 
the facts in such a way as to give a total picture that was false.” 14 

The Great War 

The fledgling publicity industry got a big boost with World War I. 
Ivy Lee and many other industry pioneers joined the US government’s 
campaign to mobilize public opinion in support of the war effort. 
The Committee on Public Information, led by George Creel, used 
posters, billboards, advertising, exhibits, pamphlets and newspapers 
to promote the “war to end all wars” — to “make the world safe for 

In a history of the war effort titled Mobilizing Civilian America, 
Harold Tobin and Percy Bidwell describe the committee’s work as 
“perhaps the most effective job of large-scale war propaganda which 
the world had ever witnessed.” The committee “bombarded the pub- 
lic unceasingly with enthusiastic reports on the nation’s colossal war 
effort and with contrasts of our war aims and those of our allies, 
with the war aims of the Central Powers. Dissenting voices were 
stilled, either by agreement with the press or by the persuasive action 
of the agents of the Department of Justice.” 15 The committee enrolled 
75,000 civic leaders as “Four-Minute Men” to deliver war messages 
to people in churches, theaters and civic groups. Ivy Lee’s publicity 
program for the Red Cross helped it grow from 486,000 to 20 mil- 
lion members and raise $400 million by the time the war ended. The 
Creel Committee also used the time-tested tactic of feeding wartime 
hysteria with fantastic atrocity stories depicting the Germans as beasts 
and Huns. 16 

The war demonstrated the power of propaganda and helped build 
the reputations of Creel Committee members, who returned to civil- 
ian life and offered their services to help business in the transition 
from a wartime to a peacetime economy. They applied and refined 
the publicity methods they had learned during the war. 

The postwar years saw Ivy Lee’s firm defending the Rockefellers 
again, in a private war between coal mine owners and striking mine 
workers in West Virginia. Nearly 400,000 miners had gone out on 
strike to protest dangerous working conditions, low wages, and other 
abuses such as payment of wages in “company scrip” that could only 
be used in overpriced company stores. The coal companies hired 
armed Pinkerton detectives. President Warren G. Harding sent in fed- 
eral troops. The governor of West Virginia declared martial law. 
Logan County's corrupt sheriff, Don Chafin, used money from the 



coal companies to hire ‘deputy sheriff’ strikebreakers. The resulting 
battles left at least 70 miners dead. 

Lee worked to clean up the reputation of the coal companies by 
publishing bulletins titled The Miner’s Lamp and Coal Facts. The bul- 
letins ran stories praising the charitable works of mine owners, and 
a “first-hand sketch of Sheriff Don Chafin’’ which “reveals different 
traits than the public has been given to understand.” They attacked 
the union’s method of organizing and collecting dues, and claimed 
that “company stores protect mine workers’ pocketbooks.” 17 

These activities notwithstanding, Ivy Lee was the most widely 
sought-after advisor of his day to companies seeking to improve their 
public image. Many historians and industry insiders consider Lee the 
“father of public relations,” an honor he would probably hold with- 
out challenge if his reputation had not been tainted by scandal near 
the end of his career. In 1933, shortly after Adolf Hitler’s rise to 
power, Lee’s firm went to work for the German Dye Tmst to advise 
them on ways to improve German-American relations, leading to 
charges that he was a Nazi propagandist. The New York Mirror ran 
a story in July 1934 headlined: “Rockefeller Aide Nazi Mastermind.” 
In November of that year, with the scandal still hanging over his 
head, Lee died of a brain tumor. An obituary in the Jewish Daily For- 
ward described him as "an agent of the Nazi government.” 18 

Bemays and the “Engineering of Consent” 

Ivy Lee’s fall from grace enabled another early PR practitioner, 
Edward Bernays, to claim credit for founding the field of public rela- 
tions. In his history of the PR industry, Scott Cutlip describes Bernays 
as “perhaps public relations’ most fabulous and fascinating individ- 
ual, a man who was bright, articulate to excess, and most of all, an 
innovative thinker and philosopher of this vocation that was in its 
infancy when he opened his office in New York in June 1919.” Much 
of Bemays’s reputation today stems from his persistent public rela- 
tions campaign to build his own reputation as “America’s No. 1 Pub- 
licist.” During his active years, many of his peers in the industry were 
offended by Bernays’ constant self-promotion. According to Cutlip, 
“Bernays was a brilliant person who had a spectacular career, but, 
to use an old-fashioned word, he was a braggart.” 19 

Born in Vienna, Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, the 
“father of psychoanalysis,” and his public relations efforts helped 
popularize Freud’s theories in the United States. Bernays also pio- 
neered the PR industry’s use of psychology and other social sciences 

The Art of the Hustle and the Science of Propaganda 


to design its public persuasion campaigns. “If we understand the 
mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to 
control and regiment the masses according to our will without their 
knowing it,” Bemays argued. 20 He called this scientific technique of 
opinion molding the “engineering of consent.” 21 

One of Bemays’s favorite techniques for manipulating public opin- 
ion was the indirect use of “third party authorities” to plead for his 
clients’ causes. “If you can influence die leaders, either with or with- 
out their conscious cooperation, you automatically influence the 
group which diey sway," he said. In order to promote sales of bacon, 
for example, he conducted a survey of physicians and reported their 
recommendation that people eat hearty breakfasts. He sent the results 
of the survey to 5,000 physicians, along with publicity touting bacon 
and eggs as a hearty breakfast. 22 His clients included President Calvin 
Coolidge, Procter & Gamble, CBS, General Electric and Dodge 
Motors. Beyond his contributions to these famous and powerful 
clients, Bemays revolutionized public relations by combining tradi- 
tional press a gentry with the techniques of psychology and sociol- 
ogy to create what one author called “the science of ballyhoo.” 23 

“When a person would first meet Bemays,” noted writer Scott 
Cutlip, “it would not be long until Uncle Sigmund would be brought 
into the conversation. His relationship with Freud was always in the 
forefront of his thinking and his counseling.” According to Itwin Ross, 
another writer, “Bemays liked to think of himself as a kind of psy- 
choanalyst to troubled corporations.” In the early 1920s, Bemays 
arranged for the US publication of an English-language translation 
of Freud’s General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. In addition to pub- 
licizing Freud’s ideas, Bernays used his association with Freud to 
establish his own reputation as a thinker and theorist — a reputation 
which was further enhanced when Bernays authored several land- 
mark books of his own, most notably Crystallizing Public Opinion 
and Propaganda 

Bemays defined the profession of “counsel on public relations” as 
a “practicing social scientist” whose “competence is like that of the 
industrial engineer, the management engineer, or the investment 
counselor in their respective fields.” 25 To assist clients, PR counselors 
used “understanding of the behavioral sciences and applying them 
— sociology, social psychology, anthropology, history, etc.” 26 

This definition of PR was worlds apart from the old days of press 
agents and circus handbills. In Propaganda, his most important book, 
Bemays argued that the scientific manipulation of public opinion was 



necessary to overcome chaos and conflict in society: “The conscious 
and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions 
of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those 
who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invis- 
ible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . 
We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas 
suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical 
result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast 
numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are 
to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ... In almost every 
act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, 
in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated 
by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the 
mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who 
pull the wires which control the public mind.” 27 

Compared to Ivy Lee’s claim that “all our work is done in the 
open," Bemays was audaciously blunt about the secret, manipula- 
tive nature of public relations work. His celebration of propaganda 
helped define public relations, but it didn't win the industry many 
friends. In a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt, Supreme Court 
Justice Felix Frankfurter described Bemays and Lee as “professional 
poisoners of the public mind, exploiters of foolishness, fanaticism 
and self-interest.” 28 And history itself showed the flaw in Bernays’ 
claim that “manipulation of the masses" is natural and necessary in 
a democratic society. The fascist rise to power in Germany demon- 
strated that propaganda could be used to subvert democracy as easily 
as it could be used to “resolve conflict.” 

In his autobiography, Bernays recalls a dinner at his home in 1933 
where “Karl von Weigand, foreign correspondent of the Hearst 
newspapers, an old hand at interpreting Europe and just returned 
from Germany, was telling us about Goebbels and his propaganda 
plans to consolidate Nazi power. Goebbels had shown Weigand his 
propaganda library, the best Weigand had ever seen. Goebbels, 
said Weigand, was using my book Crystallizing Public Opinion as 
a basis for his destructive campaign against the Jews of Germany. 
This shocked me. . . . Obviously the attack on the Jews of Ger- 
many was no emotional outburst of the Nazis, but a deliberate, 
planned campaign.” 29 


SiwokERs' HacI<s 

I’ll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. 
Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive. And there's fantastic brand loyalty. 

once R.J. Reynolds’s largest shareholder 

One of the PR industry’s first major clients was the tobacco indus- 
try. In die early twentieth century, the tobacco companies used PR’s 
psychological marketing skills to first hook women and then chil- 
dren on their drug. Edward Bernays, Ivy Lee and John Hill all worked 
on PR for tobacco, pioneering techniques that today remain the PR 
industry’s stock in trade: third party advocacy, subliminal message 
reinforcement, junk science, phony front groups, advocacy adver- 
tising, and buying favorable news reporting with advertising dollars. 

Prior to World War I, smoking cigarettes was considered unre- 
fined for women and effeminate for men, who either smoked cig- 
ars or stuck to tobacco of the chewing variety. The war brought 
cigarettes into vogue for men, and during the Roaring Twenties, the 
American Tobacco Company turned to PR to develop a vast new 
market — American women — for sales of its Lucky Strike brand. The 
company first hired adman A.D. Lasker, who portrayed Lucky Strikes 
as a healthy cigarette by concocting surveys using spurious data to 
claim that doctors preferred Luckies as the “less imitating” brand. 
Lasker also developed an advertising campaign featuring female Met- 
ropolitan opera stars, their soprano voices somehow unaffected by 
smoking, giving testimonials such as “Cigarettes Are Kind to Your 
Throat” and “I Protect My Precious Voice With Lucky Strikes .” 1 

Edward Bernays was hired by Liggett & Myers, the maker of 
Chesterfields. To spoof their rivals at American Tobacco, Bernays 




created an organization called the “Tobacco Society for Voice Cul- 
ture” to “establish a home for singers and actors whose voices have 
cracked under the strain of their cigarette testimonials.” The satire 
was successful enough that American Tobacco President George 
Washington Hill hired Bernays away from Ligget & Myers. Some time 
later, Bernays learned that Hill had also hired Ivy Lee’s PR firm a 
year earlier. When Bernays asked Hill about this, he replied, “If I 
have both of you, my competitors can’t get either of you.” 2 

To persuade women that cigarette smoking could help them stay 
beautiful, Bernays developed a campaign based on the slogan, 
“Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet." The campaign played on 
women’s worries about their weight and increased Lucky sales three- 
fold in just twelve months. (The message, "cigarettes keep you thin,” 
reverberates today in the brand name Virginia Slims.) 3 

But smoking remained a taboo for “respectable” women, and 
Bernays turned to psychoanalyst A. A. Brill for advice. Brill provided 
a classic Freudian analysis: 

Some women regard cigarettes as symbols of freedom. . . . Smoking 
is a sublimation of oral eroticism; holding a cigarette in the mouth 
excites the oral zone. It is perfectly normal for women to want to 
smoke cigarettes. Further the first women who smoked probably had 
an excess of masculine components and adopted the habit as a mas- 
culine act. But today the emancipation of women has suppressed 
many of the feminine desires. More women now do the same work 
as men do. . . . Cigarettes, which are equated with men, become 
torches of freedom.’ 1 

Brill’s analysis inspired Bernays to stage a legendary publicity 
event that is still taught as a model in PR schools. To sell cigarettes 
as a symbol of women’s liberation, he arranged for attractive debu- 
tantes to march in New York’s prominent Easter parade, each waving 
a lit cigarette and proclaiming it a “torch of liberty.” Bernays 
made sure that publicity photos of his smoking models appeared 
world-wide. 5 

Decades of saturation cigarette advertising and promotion con- 
tinued into the 1950s via billboards, magazines, movies, TV and radio. 
Thanks to Bernays and other early pioneers of public relations, cig- 
arettes built a marketing juggernaut upon an unshakable identifica- 
tion with sex, youth, vitality and freedom. The w'ork for the tobacco 
industry, in aim, earned PR widespread credibility and launched the 
rise of today’s multi-billion dollar public relations industry. 

Smokers' Hacks 


The Truth Hurts 

In the early 1950s, the first scientific studies documenting tobacco’s 
role in cancer and other fatal illnesses began to appear. In 1952, 
Reader’s Digest ran an influential article titled, “Cancer by the Car- 
ton.” A 1953 report by Dr. Ernst L. Wynder heralded to the scien- 
tific community a definitive link between cigarette smoking and 
cancer. Over the next two years, dozens of articles appeared in the 
New York Times and other major public publications: Good House- 
keeping , the New Yorker, Look, Woman’s Home Companion. Sales of 
cigarettes went into an unusual, sudden decline. 6 

The tobacco czars w r ere in a panic. Internal memos from the indus- 
try-funded Tobacco Institute refer to the PR fallout from this scien- 
tific discovery as the “1954 emergency.” Fighting desperately for its 
economic life, the tobacco industry launched w'hat must be consid- 
ered the costliest, longest-running and most successful PR “crisis man- 
agement” campaign in history. In the words of the industry itself, 
the campaign was aimed at “promoting cigarettes and protecting 
them from these and other attacks,” by “creating doubt about the 
health charge without actually denying it, and advocating the public’s 
right to smoke, without actually urging them to take up the practice.” 7 
For help, the tobacco industry turned to John Hill, the founder of 
the PR megafirm, Hill & Knowlton. Hill designed a brilliant and 
expensive campaign that the tobacco industry is still using today in 
its fight to save itself from public rejection and governmental action. 
Hill is remembered today as a shrewd but ethical businessman. In 
a letter, he once stated, “It is not the work of public relations ... to 
outsmart the American public by helping management build prof- 
its.” Yet Hill’s work to save tobacco in the 1950s is such an egre- 
gious example of "outsmarting the American public ... to build 
profits” that Hill & Knowlton is still in court today answering crim- 
inal charges. 8 The company’s role is described as follows in a 1993 
lawsuit, State of Mississippi vs. the Tobacco Cartel-. 

As a result of these efforts, the Tobacco Institute Research Com- 
mittee (TIRC), an entity later known as The Council for Tobacco 
Research (CTR), was formed. 

The Tobacco Industry Research Committee immediately ran a full- 
page promotion in more than 400 newspapers aimed at an estimated 
43 million Americans . . . entitled “A Frank Statement to Cigarette 
Smokers.” ... In this advertisement, the participating tobacco com- 
panies recognized their “special responsibility” to the public, and 
promised to learn the facts about smoking and health. The partici- 
pating tobacco companies promised to sponsor independent research. 



. . . The participating tobacco companies also promised to cooperate 
closely with public health officials. . . . 

After thus beginning to lull the public into a false sense of secu- 
rity concerning smoking and health, the Tobacco Industry Research 
Committee continued to act as a front for tobacco industry interests. 
Despite the initial public statements and posturing, and the repeated 
assertions that they were committed to full disclosure and vitally 
concerned, the T1RC did not make the public health a primary 
concern. ... In fact, there was a coordinated, industry-wide strategy 
designed actively to mislead and confuse the public about the true 
dangers associated with smoking cigarettes. Rather than work for the 
good of the public health as it had promised, and sponsor indepen- 
dent research, die tobacco companies and consultants, acting through 
the tobacco trade association, refuted, undermined, and neutralized 
information coming from the scientific and medical community. 9 

Smoke and Mirrors 

To improve its credibility, the TIRC hired Dr. Clarence Little as direc- 
tor. Previously, Little had served as managing director of the Amer- 
ican Society for the Control of Cancer, forerunner to today’s American 
Cancer Society. 10 Litde promised that if research did discover a direct 
relationship between smoking and cancer, “the next job tackled will 
be to detemiine how to eliminate the danger from tobacco.” This 
pretense of honest concern from a respected figure worked its 
expected magic. Opinion research by Hill & Knowlton showed that 
only 9% of the newspapers expressing opinions on the TTRC were 
unfavorable, whereas 65% were favorable without reservation. 11 

There is no question that the tobacco industry knew what scien- 
tists were learning about tobacco. The TIRC maintained a library with 
cross-indexed medical and scientific papers from 2,500 medical jour- 
nals, as well as press clippings, government reports and other docu- 
ments. TIRC employees culled this library for scientific data with 
inconclusive or contrary results regarding tobacco and the harm to 
human health. These were compiled into a carefully selected 18-page 
booklet, titled “A Scientific Perspective on the Cigarette Controversy,” 
which was mailed to over 200,000 people, including doctors, mem- 
bers of Congress and the news media. 

During the 1950s, tobacco companies more than doubled their 
advertising budgets, going from $76 million in 1953 to $122 million 
in 1957. The TIRC spent another $948,151 in 1954 alone, of which 
one-fourth went to Hill & Knowlton, another fourth went to pay for 
media ads, and most of the remainder went to administrative costs. 

Smokers' Hacks 

Despite TIRC’s promise to “sponsor independent research.^ 

$80,000, or less than 10% of the total budget for the year, actually 
went to scientific projects. 12 

In 1963 the TIRC changed its name to the Council for Tobacco 
Research. In addition to this “scientific” council, Hill & Knowlton 
helped set up a separate PR and lobbying organization, the Tobacco 
Institute. Formed in 1958, the Tobacco Institute grew by 1990 into 
what the Public Relations Journal described as one of the “most for- 
midable public relations/lobbying machines in history,” spending an 
estimated $20 million a year and employing 120 PR professionals to 
fight the combined forces of the Surgeon General of the United 
States, the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, 
the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association. 13 

The tobacco industry’s PR strategy has been described by the 
American Cancer Society as “a delaying action to mislead the pub- 
lic into believing that no change in smoking habits is indicated from 
existing statistical and pathological evidence.” 14 In the 1990s, med- 
ical studies estimated that 400,000 of the 50 million smokers in the 
United States were dying each year from tobacco-related diseases, 
and that smoking was likely to be a contributing factor in the deaths 
of half the smokers in the country. 15 Tobacco opponents lobbied for 
public education and strict new regulations to prevent youthful addic- 
tion and to protect the public’s right to a smoke-free environment. 
But despite smoking’s bad press, tobacco profits have continued to 
soar, and the industiy is opening new, unregulated mega-markets 
in Asia, Eastern Europe and the Third World. 16 Even in the US, most 
attempts at serious federal or state regulation or taxation are swat- 
ted down by tobacco’s skilled army of highly paid lobbyists. 

Snatching Victory from the Ashes 

One way the cigarette industry intends to keep winning is by esca- 
lating to unprecedented levels its use of front groups such as the 
“National Smokers Alliance,” an ambitious and well-funded “grass- 
roots” campaign developed by Burson-Marsteller PR with millions 
of dollars from Philip Morris. 

The National Smokers Alliance (NSA) is a state-of-the-art campaign 
that uses full-page newspaper ads, direct telemarketing, paid can- 
vassers, free 800 numbers and newsletters to bring thousands of 
smokers into its ranks each week. By 1995 NSA claimed a mem- 
bership of 3 million smokers. The campaign’s goal is to rile up and 
mobilize a committed cadre of foot soldiers in a grassroots army 



directed by Philip Morris’s political operatives at Burson-Marsteller. 
Philip Morris knows that to win politically it has to “turn out the 
troops,” people who can emotionally battle on its behalf. The NSA 
is a sophisticated, camouflaged campaign that organizes tobacco’s 
victims to protect tobacco’s profits. 

In the past, the tobacco industry attempted, not too convincingly, 
to distance itself from pro-smoking forces. The Tobacco Institute’s 
Brennan Dawson told the Congressional Quarterly in 1990, “If we 
were to fund smokers’ rights groups and bring them to Washington, 
wouldn’t they then be viewed as an arm of the tobacco industry?” 

Apparently desperate times require more obvious measures. In 
1994, National Journal writer Peter Stone observed that NSA “is 
increasingly looking like a subsidiary of Burson-Marsteller,” and 
noted that the PR firm “used its grassroots lobbying unit, the Advo- 
cacy Communications Team, to start building membership in the 
group last year.” Thomas Humber, a Burson-Marsteller vice-presi- 
dent, is president and CEO of the NSA. Burson executives Kenneth 
Rietz and Pierre Salinger are active, as is Peter G. Kelly, a prominent 
Democrat with the firm of Black, Manafoit, Stone & Kelly, which is 
owned by Burson-Marsteller. 17 

How does die NSA recruit smoking’s victims into becoming its 
advocates? Through a combination of high-tech direct marketing 
techniques and old fashioned “feet in the street” community orga- 
nizing. Like every good grassroots group, the National Smokers 
Alliance has a folksy but strident newsletter for its membership, called 
The NSA Voice. According to its June 1994 issue, the NSA pays hun- 
dreds of young activists to sign up members in bars and bowling 
alleys in cities around the country. Eric Schippers, in charge of the 
membership drive, reported that “during only the first two months 
of activity, the Chicago campaign put 180 recruiters on the street and 
enlisted more than 40,000 members.” 

Many NSA members are first recruited via full-page ads with 800 
numbers that exhort puffers to stand up for their rights. Everyone 
who calls receives the NSA newsletter free for three months, along 
with 10 membership recruitment cards and stickers to place in stores 

and restaurants that say, “I am a smoker and have spent $ in 

your establishment.” NSA members who sign up another ten people 
at $10 each can win a free NSA t-shirt. The committed and informed 
pro-smoking advocate can also call a free 800 number to order more 
sign-up cards and stickers, or get the latest marching orders regard- 
ing which bureaucrats or politicians need nudging from Marlboro’s 

Smokers’ Hacks 


masses. One recent NSA mailing, sent first class to hundreds of thou- 
sands of smokers, urged them to write letters to the Occupational 
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to defeat new regulations 
that would “ban smoking in any site where work is conducted.” 

Burson-Marsteller’s propagandists have even coined a clever play 
on words that questions the patriotism of anti-smokers by calling 
them “anti Americans.” NSA’s newsletter advises, “If ‘Anti’ America 
is pushing a discriminatory smoking ban in your workplace, speak 
up,” and “check the laws in your state with regard to the protection 
of individual rights.” 18 

Bringing in the Sheaves 

In recent years California has been the front line of the tobacco wars 
and the state where the industry has suffered its worst setbacks. In 
1988 the cigarette companies spent more than $20 million in a failed 
effort to defeat a major anti-smoking initiative. Since then health 
activists have passed hundreds of local smoking bans. As a result, 
California has seen a 27% decrease in cigarette consumption, the 
most success of any state in reducing tobacco’s deadly toll. 19 

Philip Morris is fighting back through a California PR firm called 
the Dolphin Group. Dolphin CEO Lee Stitzenberger used a half-mil- 
lion dollars from Philip Morris to set up a front group called “Cali- 
fornians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions.” Using this deceptive 
name, NSA members gathered signatures to put a referendum on 
the California ballot in November 1994, which the Dolphin Group 
promoted with billboards reading, “Yes on 188 — Tough Statewide 
Smoking Restrictions — The Right Choice.” 20 

In reality, Proposition 188 was a pro-tobacco referendum which, 
if passed, would have undermined 270 existing local anti-smoking 
ordinances in California cities, as well as the state’s new statewide 
smoke-free workplace law. 21 Anti-smoking groups charged that many 
of the people who signed petitions in favor of the referendum were 
led to believe that they were supporting a measure to protect non- 
smokers and youths. After the public learned about the funding 
source behind “Californians for Statewide Smoking Restrictions,” 
opinion turned decisively against the referendum and it was voted 
down. “The $25 million smokescreen the tobacco industry created 
to dupe Californians into voting for Proposition 188 has cleared, and 
the voters have spoken," declared the American Cancer Society. 22 

The tobacco industry’s PR campaign is not really about swaying 
public opinion, a battle which the industry has already lost. Even 



half of smokers favor stricter government regulation of their deadly 
habit. 23 The industry’s goal is not to win good PR, but to avoid losing 
political and legal battles. This survivalist strategy has served the cig- 
arette industry well for fort)' years. At a PR seminar in May 1994, 
Tom Lauria, the chief lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute, pointed out 
that tobacco sales continue to grow worldwide. He dismissed tobacco 
critics as simply a “political correctness craze” and ridiculed predic- 
tions of tobacco’s demise, saying that the media has been prepar- 
ing smoking’s obituary for decades. Tobacco may be fighting for its 
life, but Lauria reminded the assembled PR practitioners that his 
industry has been fighting and winning that battle for a long time. 24 

Hazy Ethics 

Sixteen thousand PR practitioners (including Harold Burson and Lee 
Stitzenberger) belong to the Public Relations Society of America 
(PRSA) and pledge to abide by its seventeen-point “Code of Profess- 
ional Standards.” The code states that a PRSA member “shall conduct 
his or her professional life in accord with the public interest." 

PR legend Edward Bernays, who designed the “torches of liberty” 
parade that made smoking socially acceptable for American women, 
later said if he’d known of the dangers of tobacco he would have 
refused the account. “When the profession of public relations was 
first outlined,” Bemays stated, “it was envisioned as other profes- 
sions functioned: that is, as an art applied to a science, in this case 
social science, and in which the primary motivation was the public 
interest and not pecuniary motivation. . . . No reputable public rela- 
tions organization would today accept a cigarette account, since their 
cancer-causing effects have been proven.” 25 

These ethical qualms in his later years made Bernays a minority 
voice within the public relations industry. In 1994, an informal sur- 
vey of 38 PR firms revealed that only nine would decline a contract 
to represent the tobacco industry. 26 

Bernays, a nonsmoker, lived to be 103 years old, passing away 
in March 1995. His final years were spent fruitlessly appealing to the 
PRSA to police its own ranks. “Under present conditions, an uneth- 
ical person can sign the code of PRSA, become a member, practice 
unethically — untouched by any legal sanctions,” Bemays observed. 
“In law and medicine, such an individual is subject to disbarment 
from the profession. . . . There are no standards. . . . This sad situ- 
ation makes it possible for anyone, regardless of education or ethics, 
to use the term ‘public relations’ to describe his or her function.” 27 


SpiNNii\q tNe Atom 

Once a bright hope shared by all mankind, including myself, the rash 
proliferation of nuclear power plants is now one of the ugliest clouds 
hanging over America. , . . Proliferation of capabilities to produce 
nuclear weapons of mass destruction is reaching terrifying propor- 
tions. And now, the prospect of the reprocessing or recycling of 
nuclear wastes from scores of atomic power plants is close upon us. 

physicist, Nobel prize winner, and first chairman 
of the US Atomic Energy Commission 

As part of Edward Bernays’ incessant effort to create a “profes- 
sional” image for public relations, he proposed creating an informal 
social forum where public relations professionals could mingle and 
share ideas with top leaders in business and government. To get the 
group started, he organized a dinner at his home in January 1938, 
with university professors, journalists, business leaders, and other PR 
professionals as invited guests. He followed up by sending a memo 
about the dinner to Time magazine, which ran a story in its January 
24 issue: “Around a dinner table in Manhattan frequently gather some 
20 of the top propagandists in the US. This unpublicized high-pow- 
ered group calls itself the Council on Public Opinion. Chairman is 
the Nation’s No. 1 publicist, dark Machiavellian Edward L. Bernays. 
. . . This small group might be the seat of a sinister super-govern- 
ment were it not that no two members of the Council on Public Opin- 
ion completely agree on anything veiy important.” 1 

Indeed, disagreements quickly led to a shakeup within the group. 
The self-serving reference to Bernays as “the Nation’s No. 1 publi- 
cist” offended Hill & KnowJton founder John Hill, who complained 




that Bemays’ press release had depicted him as “sitting at the feet 
of the master to learn public relations." Hill organized a monthly din- 
ner and social forum of his own, to which Bemays was not invited. 
At a meeting hosted by the PR director of Bethlehem Steel, a mem- 
ber joked that after “our pilgrimage to Bethlehem” they should call 
themselves “the Wisemen.” The name stuck, and the Wisemen have 
been meeting ever since, an elite group of high-level practitioners 
who regularly discuss social, economic and political trends. 

Near the end of World War II, the US government turned to the 
Wisemen for advice on how to handle publicity aspects of the top- 
secret Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. With gov- 
ernment security men guarding the doors, the Wisemen met with 
Major General Leslie Groves, chief of the Manhattan Project, at the 
University Club in New York City. Groves briefed them on the atomic 
development and asked for advice on how to handle PR for the first 
tests in New Mexico. At their suggestion, the War Department invited 
New York Times reporter Bill Lawrence to observe the tests and to 
be the “pool reporter" relaying information from the bombings of 
Japan to other reporters the Army had assembled in Manila. 2 

The end of the war left the US with a new set of public relations 
concerns related to the bomb. The US monopoly on nuclear weapons 
quickly evaporated as the Soviet Union developed bombs of its own. 
By 1952, both countries had graduated from A-bombs to H-bombs, 
yielding more than 15,000 times the destructive power of the explo- 
sion that obliterated Hiroshima. As US-Soviet hostilities hardened, 
the public was left to consider the horrifying potential that atomic 
power had unleashed — the prospect that the next "world war” could 
involve bombs capable of destroying whole cities in a war that even 
then people realized no one would win. 3 

Atoms for Peace 

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his now-famous 
“Atoms for Peace” speech to the United Nations. Using a swords- 
into-plowshares approach borrowed from the Bible, he pledged that 
“peaceful power from atomic energy is no dream of the future. That 
capability, already proved, is here — now, today,” ready to “provide 
abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world. 

. . . The US pledges ... to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma — 
to devote its entire heart and mind to find the way by which the 
miraculous inventiveness of man shall not be dedicated to his death, 
but consecrated to his life.” 4 

Spinning the Atom 

Eisenhower’s speech marked the beginning of a public relations 
campaign to transform the image of nuclear technology. Previously, 
its sole proven use had been for the purpose of designing destruc- 
tive weapons. Now the US Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) 
promised that nuclear generators would make electricity “too cheap 
to meter.” The government’s monopoly on ownership of nuclear 
materials was abolished, and private companies were invited to par- 
ticipate in the commercial development of atomic energy. 5 The US 
promised to share atomic energy technology with underdeveloped 
nations. The atom’s image as a magical source of unlimited energy 
was promoted using educational films, brochures and experts who 
promised that a lump of uranium the size of a pea could unleash 
enough energy to drive a car to the moon and back/’ Less than a 
year following his “Atoms for Peace” speech, Eisenhower appeared 
on national television to personally lead a publicity stunt on Labor 
Day of 1954. Waving a “magic wand,” he electronically signalled a 
radio-controlled bulldozer to begin breaking ground at the small 
Pennsylvania town of Shippingport, marking the start of construc- 
tion on the country’s first commercial nuclear power plant. 7 

Once again, however, image and reality were worlds apart. 
Although scientists had already demonstrated the possibility of using 
nuclear reactors to generate electricity, the technology had little sup- 
port among US utility companies, who saw nuclear generators as 
expensive and unnecessary. In fact, the cost per kilowatt of elec- 
tricity generated by the Shippingport reactor was ten times higher 
than the prevailing cost of power; federal subsidies were necessary 
to make it commercially competitive with conventional coal-pow- 
ered reactors. 8 The true purpose of Shippingport was symbolic; it 
sent a message that the atom could be harnessed for peaceful uses. 

In 1950, David Lilienthal had resigned as AEC chairman. He 
became increasingly disillusioned with the “many instances of the 
way in which public relations techniques — the not-so-hidden per- 
suader — have been used to promote the appropriation of funds for 
the peaceful Atom." He criticized the “elaborate ritual” of providing 
nuclear technology to underdeveloped countries: “Even as a pro- 
paganda move it was self-defeating and naive. A great many of these 
countries need and could use doctors and medicine, storage batter- 
ies, plows and fertilizers and seed — and good elementary scientific 
instruction. Only the desire to prove somehow that atoms were for 
peace could justify the absurdity of a separate program, not in the 
foreign aid part of the State Department but in the AEC.” 9 



By 1962, nuclear power was still more expensive than energy gen- 
erated by conventional means, but the AEC and private companies 
such as Westinghouse, Union Carbide and General Electric had spent 
billions of dollars in research and development, and they were anx- 
ious to see a return on their investment. With great fanfare, GE 
announced in 1962 that it had contracted to build a nuclear plant at 
Oyster Creek, New Jersey, for $91 million, entirely without federal 
subsidy. In reality, however, the Oyster Creek reactor was a “loss 
leader.” General Electric built it at a bargain-basement price, accept- 
ing a loss on the deal so it could position itself to dominate the reac- 
tor market. The ploy worked. The mystique of high-tech atomic 
power proved hypnotic, and orders for new reactors began rolling 
in from utility companies convinced that they needed nuclear power 
to remain on the cutting edge of “America’s energy future.” As the 
orders came in, GE discreetly jacked up its prices, until utility com- 
panies were actually paying more for the privilege of “buying into the 
future” than if they had stayed with conventional generators. 10 

Damage Control 

As the rhetoric of power “too cheap to meter” faded, the AEC and 
nuclear advocates spoke instead of someday producing atomic elec- 
tricity that would be “competitive in cost” to coal, gas or hydroelectric 
power. This goal was never achieved in practice. But even if nuclear 
power could be produced at a competitive price, the technology had 
another major problem: safety. 

At a conventional power plant, an accident or sabotage might kill 
a few dozen people — a couple of hundred in a worst-case scenario. 
By contrast, a 1957 study by the Brookhaven National Laboratory 
estimated that a “worst case” accident at a small, 150-megawatt 
nuclear reactor 30 miles upwind of a major city would kill 3,400 peo- 
ple, injure another 43,000, and cause $7 billion in property damage. 
An accident at a larger, 1,000-megawatt reactor could kill as many 
as 45,000 people, cause property damage of nearly $300 billion, and 
radioactively contaminate an area the size of the state of Pennsyl- 
vania. These estimates stunned the AEC steering committee which 
had commissioned the study. In an internal memorandum, steering 
committee member S. Allan Lough wrote that “Great care should be 
exercised ... to avoid establishing and/or reinforcing the popular 
notion that reactors are unsafe. Though this is a public information 
or promotional problem that the AEC now faces with less than desir- 
able success, I feel that by calculating the consequences of 

Spinning the Atom 


hypothetical accidents, the AEC should not place itself in the 
position of making the location of reactors near urban areas nearly 
indefensible.” The steering committee decided to withhold publi- 
cation of the Brookhaven study, and when word of its existence 
leaked out, the AEC responded by saying only that it had never 
been completed. 11 

In fact, the industry had already seen a series of catastrophic inci- 
dents, most of which were successfully kept out of the press. As the 
years unrolled, new accidents kept happening: 

• In Kyshtym in the Soviet Union, a massive radioactive explosion 
at a high-level waste dump in 1957 rendered an area of over 70 
square miles permanently uninhabitable. 12 

• At the SL-1 test reactor in Idaho, an exploding fuel rod killed three 
reactor operators and saturated the reactor building with radiation. 
Three weeks after the January 3, 1961, accident, the hands and 
heads of the three victims were still so hot with radiation that they 
had to be severed from their bodies and buried separately as 
radioactive waste. 13 

• On October 5, 1966, a partial meltdown at the 300-megawatt 
Enrico Fermi I fast-breeder reactor at Monroe, Michigan prompted 
utility officials to seriously consider the possibility of trying to evac- 
uate Detroit, 40 miles to the north. News of the accident was suc- 
cessfully withheld from the public until the early 1970s, when John 
G. Fuller, one of the engineers who witnessed the meltdown, pub- 
lished a book titled We Almost Lost Detroit ,' 4 

• In 1975, fire damaged electric cables and safety systems at the Ten- 
nessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry complex in Alabama. The 
fire triggered near panic in the plant’s control room and started a 
process that could, if allowed to continue, have led to a meltdown. 15 

Containment Failure 

Despite aggressive publicity efforts, the “peaceful atom” was never 
able to overcome its association with the nuclear weapons industry. 
The movement against nuclear power originated with die campaign 
against above-ground bomb testing, which educated citizens about 
the health and environmental dangers posed by radiation. Environ- 
mental concerns also fed the first local opposition to the building of 
nuclear power stations, when the Sierra Club in 1961 opposed con- 
struction of the Bodega Head plant near San Francisco on a site that 
was not only part of a local nature reserve, but also on an earthquake 



fault. 16 The activism of the 1960s led naturally to growing protests 
linking nuclear power to nuclear bombs, and by tire late 1970s, “no- 
nuke” groups were active throughout the United States, lobbying and 
developing infomration programs which criticized the nuclear indus- 
try on environmental, scientific and economic grounds. 

In response, electrical utilities stepped up their PR campaigns. A 
1978 survey of business-funded educational materials in US public 
schools showed that “more than any industry group, the electric util- 
ities provide extensive multi-media materials on energy issues. . . . 
These energy education efforts notably target the elementary grade 
levels through the use of films, comic books, cartoon graphics or 
simple phrasing. This emphasis on the lower grades seems aimed 
at cultivating a future constituency in support of the electric power 
industry in general and nuclear power in particular.” The educational 
cartoon books included titles such as The Atom, Electricity, and You, 
distributed by the Commonwealth Edison Company; For A Mature 
Audience Only, published by Westinghouse; and Mickey Mouse and 
Goofy Explore Energy, produced by Exxon. 17 

The PR campaign attempted to portray nuclear power as not only 
safe, but environmentally cleaner than other power sources. In The 
Story of Electricity, published in 1975 by the Florida Power and Light 
Corporation, comic-book characters promised that “nuclear plants 
are clean, odorless and generate electricity economically . . . and 
most important, help conserve fossil fuels!” Another comic book titled 
The Battle for Survival — 7 he War Against Environmental Pollution, 
published by Virginia Electric and Power, claimed that “nuclear gen- 
erating stations are just about the cleanest and most desirable neigh- 
bor that any community can have . . . and our power company is a 
leader in constructing these new plants!” 18 

Despite decades of efforts to generate favorable publicity, the 
nuclear industry was strikingly unprepared to handle the image crisis 
that erupted in Pennsylvania on March 28, 1979, when control sys- 
tems failed at the Three-Mile Island facility. According to Robert 
Dilenschneider, the Hill & Knowlton PR executive who was brought 
in to manage the crisis, “the miscommunication at Three-Mile Island 
was the most monumental I have ever witnessed in business, and 
itself caused a crisis of epic proportions.” 19 By way of bad luck, 
public alarm was heightened by the ominously coincidental simi- 
larity of events at Three-Mile Island to the plot of a recently-released 
Hollywood movie, The China Syndrome, which portrayed a utility 
company more concerned with corporate profits and coverups than 

Spinning the Atom 


with serious safety problems. Metropolitan Edison, the company 
managing Three-Mile Island for parent company General Public Util- 
ities, seemed to be reading from the same script as the movie in its 
initial response to the discovery that its reactor was overheating. 

The first rule of effective public relations in a crisis is to announce 
the bad news as completely and quickly as possible. Metropolitan 
Edison broke this rule in the first day of the crisis by attempting to 
evade the facts and downplay the extent of radiation released from 
the ailing reactor. 20 Worse yet, Met Ed’s public-relations staff gave 
out contradictory and inaccurate information. “There have been no 
recordings of any significant levels of radiation, and none are 
expected outside the plant," said Met Ed’s chief spokesman, Don 
Curry. Shortly after this statement was released, Pennsylvania’s 
Department of Environmental Resources sent a helicopter over the 
plant with a geiger counter and detected radiation. Company offi- 
cials backpedaled and said they didn’t know how much radiation 
had been released. Later that afternoon, they changed their position 
again and said the release was minor. Company vice-president Jack 
Herbein became the perfect target for skeptical journalists, talking 
in technical jargon and losing his temper with reporters. When some- 
one asked what might happen if the hydrogen bubble inside the 
reactor came in contact with a spark, he answered that the result 
could be “spontaneous energetic disassembly” of the reactor. When 
reporters asked him to explain the difference between “spontaneous 
energetic disassembly” and an explosion, he angrily refused to 
answer further questions. 21 

Alarmed by the utility company’s refusal or inability to explain 
what was happening inside the plant, Pennsylvania Governor Richard 
Thornburgh suggested that pregnant women and children leave an 
area within a five-mile radius of the plant. Panic followed. Forty- 
nine percent of the population living within fifteen miles of the 
plant — 144,000 people — packed up and fled. “The photographs in 
the press were appalling,” Dilenschneider recalled. “They resembled 
refugee lines in World War II. People were living off bottled water 
and canned food. There was an exodus. They packed their cars and 
their campers with everything they could, and jammed the highways: 
babies bundled in blankets, kids with scarves wrapped across their 
faces to limit their exposure to the ‘radiation,’ and pregnant women 
in sheer panic about the future they might be facing.” 22 

Following the accident, opinion polls registered a sharp drop in 
public support for nuclear power, and the nuclear industry 



The planners warned, however, that the campaign “has a formi- 
dable goal. It took Nevadans a lifetime to build up fears and resent- 
ments regarding nuclear energy. Countering the amount of free press 
against nuclear, such as accidents at Three-Mile Island and Cher- 
nobyl, hazardous leaks and various other plant problems, along with 
science fiction movies, would literally cost tens of millions of dol- 
lars in terms of column inches and air time in Nevada alone. Across 
the country, the cost would run into the billions.” 26 

In October 1991, the Nevada Initiative began its first massive bar- 
rage of “air cover” ads. Narrated by Ron Vitto, a popular former 
sportscaster, the ads attempted to demonstrate the safety of trans- 
porting high level nuclear waste. One advertisement showed a truck 
and trailer bearing a cask of nuclear waste being rammed at high 
speed by a train to show that nuclear waste casks could safely sur- 
vive such a collision. Other ads featured DOE scientists explaining 
that nuclear waste would not explode, or claiming that living near 
a nuclear power plant would not cause cancer. 27 

“Nevada political officials at all levels have been extremely aggres- 
sive in opposition to the project,” explained a letter dated October 
25, 1991, from Florida Power President Allen J. Keesler to other mem- 
bers of the Edison Electric Institute, a US association of electrical 
utility companies. “They have effectively frustrated DOE’s efforts to 
move forward. . . . Sustained progress on the Yucca Mountain pro- 
gram can only be achieved by developing a cooperative environ- 
ment in Nevada.” To fund the PR campaign, Keesler asked each 
utility engaged in nuclear energy production to pay a “special assess- 
ment . . . collected through a special billing included with EEI’s dues.” 
Keesler’s letter closed by reminding recipients that “this document 
is Confidential. You can understand the sensitivity associated with 
it becoming public.” 28 

In November, three weeks into the advertising campaign, indus- 
try-funded pollsters conducted a survey and reported that although 
72.4% of Nevada residents had seen the ads, the results were “not 

Fewer than 15 percent of the respondents who had seen the ads said 
the ads made them more supportive of the repository, while 32 per- 
cent said the messages made them less supportive. Despite the bar- 
rage of pro-repository messages, almost three-quarters of the 
respondents (73.8%) said they would oppose the repository if they 
were to vote on whether it should be built — almost exactly the same 
proportion as before the ad campaign. . . . Almost half (48.5%) of the 

Spinning the Atom 


respondents who had seen the advertisements said they did not 
believe the ads, . . . while 3.3 percent felt insulted by the ads . . . and 
1 1.8 percent disagreed with the ads for a variety of reasons. . . . These 
three categories of negative comments make up 63-6 percent of the 
recorded responses.’ 9 

A few weeks later, the campaign hit another, even worse snag. 
One of the nuclear utility executives who had received Allen 
Keesler’s “confidential” letter decided to leak it to anti-nuclear forces, 
along with other key documents detailing the industry’s PR strategy. 
The documents proved highly embarrassing. In televised testimony 
before the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects, ANEC vice-pres- 
ident Ed Davis had claimed that the purpose of the advertising cam- 
paign was strictly “to inform and educate the public.” Newspapers 
and television coverage contrasted his statement with the campaign’s 
internal documents, which talked of bringing pressure on the state 
of Nevada to cooperate with the program, and hiring local reporters 
to present the “industry’s side of the stories” and “convince the public 
that nuclear energy is safe.” 

Nevadans reacted with outrage. Newspapers and television cov- 
erage featured scathing attacks by state officials that continued for 
weeks. Nevada Senator Richard Bryan demanded an explanation 
from Energy Secretary James Watkins regarding the role of his depart- 
ment in the PR campaign. Governor Bob Miller wrote the governors 
of other states with nuclear power plants, challenging the propriety 
of using utility ratepayer funds to persuade Nevadans that they ought 
to accept nuclear wastes that no other state wanted . 30 

The PR campaign’s death throes are captured in a report titled 
“The Nevada Initiative: A Risk Communication Fiasco” by James 
Flynn, Paul Slovic and C.K. Mertz, employees of an opinion polling 
firm named Decision Research: 

Perhaps the most devastating rejoinders to the ANEC campaign came 
from a pair of Las Vegas disk jockeys who began to parody each of 
the new TV ads. The main character in their satiric skits bore the mock 
name “Ron Ditto,” whose simple-minded pronouncements were 
heaped with ridicule: “Hi! This is Ron Ditto, your formerly respected 
sportscaster, trading in your respect for much-needed dollars.” 

Local businesses joined in. A TV advertisement showed the disk 
jockeys in a huge pair of overalls as a two-headed mutant, “Yucca 
Mountain Man," in a commercial for a Las Vegas auto dealership. A 
restaurant extolled the quality of the tomatoes in its salad bar by 
putting one through the same tests that nuclear waste casks were sub- 
jected to in the ANEC ads: After the tomato survives being mn into a 



cement wall, hit by a speeding train and dropped from a high tower, 
“You can be sure that it's one high-quality tomato.” 

The ANEC campaign, faced with disbelief, ridicule, and little mea- 
surable influence on public opinion, was discontinued. ... By that 
time, die campaign’s credibility had been damaged considerably. A 
survey conducted in June 1992 by researchers from Arizona State Uni- 
versity and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas showed that after see- 
ing the ads only 3.3 percent of respondents reported an increased 
level of trust in the repository program while almost 41 percent were 
less trusting and the remainder were unclianged. 31 

In April 1991 former Secretary of Energy James Watkins created 
a task force to “analyze the critical institutional question of how the 
Department of Energy (DOE) might strengthen public trust and con- 
fidence in the civilian radioactive waste management program.” After 
two years of public meetings and hearing formal presentations from 
more than 100 organization representatives, die task force concluded 
that "distrust [in DOE’s activities] is not irrational.” Moreover, “this 
distrust will continue for a long time, will require sustained com- 
mitments from successive Secretaries of Energy to overcome, and 
will demand diat DOE act in ways that are unnecessary for organi- 
zations that have sustained trust and confidence.” 

During the task force hearings, participants made repeated refer- 
ences to the public relations tactics of the nuclear industry. DOE 
found itself in the unfortunate position of being blamed for these 
activities as well as their own. The huge sums of money paid to PR 
operatives of the nuclear industry had left a legacy diat was not only 
unsuccessful in molding public opinion, but permanently harmful 
to the industry’s image. 


The combination of public opposition and management problems 
within the Department of Energy led to repeated postponements of 
the anticipated completion date for the Yucca Mountain repository. 
On average, in fact, every year the date was pushed back by two 
years, making for what the Decision Research team described as “an 
extremely slow moving program. . . . Combined with funding short- 
falls, questions about the ability to meet regulatory requirements, and 
a history of inadequate management of the scientific work, the pro- 
gram often appears on the verge of collapse.”- 12 

With the date for completion of a permanent storage site post- 
poned until sometime in the 21st century, the industry has been 
forced to fall back on a “temporary” plan — storing spent fuel locally 

Spinning the Atom 


in the yards of power plants across the country. A strategy for deal- 
ing with this latest embarrassment is outlined in an industry-pub- 
lished article tided, "The Public Relations Behind Nuclear Waste.” It 
begins: “So . . . the necessity of keeping spent fuel in dry casks and 
in the yards of power plants is adding yet one more blemish on the 
face of the nuclear industry, is it? Not when good PR is used. Many 
utilities across the United States are finding that public relations cam- 
paigns, when launched well in advance of dry cask installation, are 
turning potentially negative situations into positive ones. . . . Make 
no mistake about it. All the public relations in die world will never 
cause the public to greet radioactive waste with open arms. But for 
those utilities running out of pool space, a smart PR program will 
make them better equipped to temper the tempest and to get the 
public thinking about waste in a more scientific way.” 33 

The article appeared in the March 1995 issue of the Nukem Market 
Report, published by Nukem, Inc., of Stamford, Connecticut. 
Described by the New York Times as “unfortunately named," Nukem, 
Inc., is a subsidiary of the German corporation, Nukem GmbH. 
Apparently in German, the name doesn’t carry quite the same neg- 
ative connotations as it does in English. Evidently aware that its name 
is a bit of a PR problem, the American subsidiary has tried various 
typographical strategies to encourage people to place the emphasis 
on the second syllable when pronouncing Nukem — sometimes 
spelling it, for example, with the “k” or the last three letters capital- 
ized, i.e., “NuKem” or “NuKEM." 

Nukem GmbH designs and operates waste treaunent systems for 
the chemical and nuclear power industries. In December 1987, die 
company’s nuclear shipping unit temporarily lost its license after it 
was disclosed that some 2,000 barrels of nuclear waste had been 
illegally shipped into West Germany from Belgium and stored with- 
out proper identification. The company was investigated following 
charges by German politician Volker Hauff that Nukem had sold fis- 
sionable materials to Libya and Pakistan in violation of the Nuclear 
Nonproliferation Treaty. The charges were never proven, but the 
scandal led to the suspension of top Nukem executives Karl-Ger- 
hard Hackstein and Peter Jelinek-Fink. 34 Like its parent corporation, 
American Nukem is engaged in die business of 'environmental waste 
management,” but its primary activity is buying and mining uranium 
for sale to nuclear power plants. 

According to the Nukem Market Report, “honesty, openness and 
cooperation” are the PR tools with which utility companies can 



persuade “their next-door neighbors, local government and business 
leaders, and environmentalists" to tolerate nuclear waste. As an 
example of “openness,” it advises utility companies to conduct plant 
tours, meet with local elected officials, and communicate their point 
of view to plant employees, since “neighbors tend to ask plant work- 
ers for the ‘inside scoop’ on what’s really going on.” The Nukem 
strategy also attempts to enlist “moderate” anti-nuclear groups in 
support of selected goals of local power companies. In Michigan, 
for example, the Consumers Power Company “made a presentation 
to the moderate group, West Michigan Environmental Action Coun- 
cil” and succeeded in persuading the council to focus “more on get- 
ting the material out of the state of Michigan and to Yucca Mountain 
. . . rather than bemoaning the fact that ‘ The waste is here.' " 

As an example of “cooperation,” Nukem praises the Baltimore Gas 
& Electric Company for paying its employees to “donate” one hour 
each week for public service activities in their community. “As a 
result, BG&E employees serve in senior positions in local volunteer 
fire companies and have ‘adopted’ a total of three elementary schools 
for mentoring and tutoring programs. Over 100 employees are 
coordinating about 50 charities, including the United Way, Multiple 
Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, and March of Dimes fundraising 
drives.” By cultivating a caring, community-minded image, BG&E has 
been able to limit opposition to its dry cask proposal. The key, says 
BG&E Public Information Officer Karl Neddenien, is to build this 
image early: “As long as ten years before a utility even thinks about 
a dry storage facility, it had better have developed a good commu- 
nity image.” 35 

These innocuous-sounding activities are state-of-the-art PR, reflect- 
ing the industry’s sophisticated understanding of the techniques nec- 
essary to sway public opinion in today‘s cynical world. During the 
50 years since the detonation of the first atom bomb, public opin- 
ion has steadily become more suspicious of nuclear power, despite 
the work of the powerful, well-funded nuclear lobby. The failed 
Yucca Mountain campaign in Nevada is one of many examples show- 
ing that the powers-that-be in today’s society need more than “air 
cover” — advertising and manipulation of the mass media — to win 
public acceptance. Troops are also needed to fight die “ground war” 
for public opinion. In order to fight that war, the PR industry has 
studied the tactics of grassroots democracy used by environmental- 
ists and other citizen activists, and it has begun to adapt and use 
those tactics for its own purposes. 



“The military is a role model for the business world.” 
ex-CEO of Hill & Knowlton Public Relations 

“Bud” looked the part of a B movie detective: a huge, hulking 
man in his late 50’s, pushing 270 pounds, with pale skin, a military 
haircut, sweaty palms and fidgety manners. He almost always wore 
the same cheap dark blue suit and carried a large leather briefcase. 1 

For years Bud was a frequent visitor to the offices and events of 
nonprofit public advocacy groups, particularly those involved in envi- 
ronmental, food safety and animal welfare issues. Sometimes he said 
he was a freelance writer, sometimes just a concerned citizen. 

One day Bud showed up at a press conference organized by the 
Beyond Beef campaign to persuade consumers that they should eat 
less meat for health and environmental reasons. A reporter thought 
he recognized Bud and went over to say hello. “How are you doing?” 
the reporter asked. “Are you still working for McDonald’s?" 

“I don't know w'hat you’re talking about,” Bud said, fidgeting. 

“Sure,” the reporter said, perplexed. “We’ve met before. You used 
to work for McDonald’s." 

“You have me confused with someone else,” Bud said, shifting 
nervously. 2 

The incident raised suspicions, and members of the Beyond Beef 
campaign decided they ought to learn a little bit more about Bud. 
A Beyond Beef staffer followed Bud leaving their headquarters and 
tailed him to the office of the secretive PR/public affairs firm of Mon- 
goven, Biscoe and Duchin (MBD). When activists inquired, company 
president Jack Mongoven denied that Bud was an employee, but an 



MBETsecretary admitted that Bud often visited the office. Inquiring 
messages left on Bud’s home phone machine went unanswered. 

Public Policy and Private Eyes 

Movements for social and political reform have often become tar- 
gets of surveillance. In the early days of the labor movement, busi- 
nesses used private detective agencies to infiltrate trade unions. In 
the 1920s and during the Cold War, the government spied on Com- 
munists and suspected “fellow travelers.” In the 1960s, the FBI and 
local police investigated civil rights demonstrators and anti-war pro- 
testers. The Watergate scandal leading to the resignation of Presi- 
dent Nixon began when White House staff members organized illegal 
espionage of Nixon’s political opponents. Revelations of these activ- 
ities provoked public outrage and led Congress to pass laws restrict- 
ing the government’s right to spy on law-abiding citizens. 

In the private sector, however, spying is relatively unrestricted. 
The federal civil rights act, for instance, applies mainly to government 
action. “What’s amazing about private surveillance is that there is no 
legal protection against it,” says Philadelphia lawyer David Kairys. 3 

“Public police are accountable,” says sociologist Gaiy T. Marx. 
“They have to, in principle, make a case for their actions in open 
court, and the accused has a right to challenge and oppose evidence. 
Also, they’re restrained by the exclusionary rule and the entrapment 
doctrine, but private systems of justice don’t have to contend with 
those. We’ve always thought of big brother in government as a threat 
to liberty, but the framers of the Constitution didn’t pay much atten- 
tion to private groups, because there weren’t large corporations at the 
time. With the rise of multinationals, there is a powerful third force.” 3 

In fact, government agencies sometimes encourage the private sec- 
tor in activities that the government itself is forbidden from carrying 
out. In 1987, for example, administrators of US government research 
agencies met with a lobbyist for the private biomedical researchers 
to develop a strategy for fighting the growing animal rights campaign 
against animal testing. “The stakes are enormous,” stated a memo 
circulated at the meeting by Frederick K. Goodwin, one of the partici- 
pating federal officials. The memo went on to outline a strategy for 
keeping the government behind the scenes while encouraging pri- 
vate groups to undermine the animal rights movement: "Wherever 
feasible, the research institutions should leave the ‘out front’ activi- 
ties to the other groups. . . . Agencies should find some acceptable 
way to provide funding for some of these efforts and technical 

Spies for Hire 


support for others.” Interviewed later, Goodwin explained the rea- 
soning behind his strategy': “We’re not allowed to lobby. There’s a 
law against it. [But] all federal agencies have linkages to various advo- 
cacy groups interested in the business of that agency.” 5 

The public relations industry' has developed a lucrative side busi- 
ness scrutinizing the thoughts and actions of citizen activists, using 
paid spies who are often recruited from government, military or pri- 
vate security backgrounds. Take, for example, “Bud,” the mole inside 
the Beyond Beef campaign. Bud’s real name was Seymour D. Vester- 
mark, Jr. Before becoming a PR spy, he began his career path as an 
Army analyst for the Department of Defense, writing reports such 
as Vulnerabilities of Social Structure: Studies of the Social Dimensions 
of Nuclear Attack, which laid out “approaches for determining the 
likely social effects of nuclear attack” in order to plan for post-war 
“reorganization” and “shorter-term and longer-term recovery.” 6 He 
went on to work in the executive office of the president of the United 
States, staffing a task force on “political assassinations and collective 
violence.” On March 27, 1976, he was mentioned briefly in a New 
York Times article describing a State Department conference on “inter- 
national terrorism.” 7 In 1978, he co-authored a book titled Controlling 
Crime in the School, to help high school principals grapple with prob- 
lems such as “how to use intelligence information for good public 
relations,” “the dilemma created by the bomb threat,” “the proper use 
of surveillance photography,” “extremists and their unfolding scenar- 
ios,” “developing mass arrest procedures” and “why kids hate cops.” 8 

Flacks and Spooks at the Watergate Hotel 

In addition to domestic espionage, the PR industry has been linked 
repeatedly to overseas spying, often lending its overseas offices to 
serve as CIA front groups. Some of those links are explored in The 
Power House, Susan B. Trento’s critical biography of PR executive 
Robert Keith Gray. Trento reports that the giant Hill & Knowlton firm 
“decided to open overseas offices ... on the advice of friends, includ- 
ing then-CIA director Allen W. Dulles.” According to Hill & Knowl- 
ton executive Robert T. Crowley, “Hill & Knowlton’s overseas offices 
were perfect cover’ for the ever-expanding CIA. Unlike other cover 
jobs, being a public relations specialist did not require technical train- 
ing for CIA officers.” George Worden, another company executive, 
said he “used to kid at Hill & Knowlton about our office in Kuala 
Lumpur, because nobody would tell me what it did, and I swore it 
had to be a CIA front.” 9 



Another PR firm with CIA links, Robert R. Mullen & Co., played 
a key role in the Watergate scandal. A report on the scandal by 
Howard Baker, the Republican vice-chairman for the Watergate 
committee, states that Mullen & Co. “maintained a relationship with 
the Central Intelligence Agency since its incorporation in 1959. It pro- 
vided cover for an agent in Europe and an agent in the Far East at 
the time of the Watergate break-in.” 10 In addition to fronting for the 
CIA, Mullen provided public relations services for clients including 
the Mormon Church, General Foods, and the US Department of 
Health, Education and Welfare. 

In 1971, the Mullen firm was purchased by Robert F. Bennett, the 
son of Wallace Bennett, Utah’s conservative Republican senator. 
Robert Bennett figures prominently in a lengthy analysis of the Water- 
gate affair by J. Anthony Lukas published in the January 4, 1976, 
New York Times Magazine. “Robert Foster Bennett is one of the most 
intriguing figures in the Watergate saga,” Lukas writes. “Through his 
political ally, Chuck Colson, he maintained close relations with the 
Committee to Re-elect the President. . . . And in early 1971, through 
Colson’s good offices, he purchased Robert R. Mullen & Company, 
a Washington public-relations firm which served as a CIA front in 
Stockholm, Singapore, Amsterdam and Mexico City, provided cover 
for some CIA activities in this country, and hired a whole platoon 
of ‘former’ CIA men — among them Howard Hunt.” 11 

The day after Hunt’s “retirement" from the CIA on April 30, 1970, 
he went to work for the Mullen Co. As tire presidential election cam- 
paign was gearing up, Colson called Bennett in July 1971 and 
arranged to have Hunt “moonlight” for the White House. The Mullen 
Co.’s offices were located at 1700 Pennsylvania Ave., direcdy across 
the street from the offices of the Committee to Re-elect the President 
at 1701 Pennsylvania, and the Nixon campaign planned many of its 
dirty tricks, including tire Watergate burglary, in Hunt’s office at the 
Mullen Co. 12 

The day after Hunt’s accomplices were arrested at the Watergate 
hotel, a Mullen Co. attorney helped the burglars make bail. Subse- 
quent investigations showed other connections between the Mullen 
finn and the Watergate conspiracy, including a series of phone calls 
from Hunt’s office to Donald Segretti, who was later convicted for 
directing a campaign of political espionage and sabotage against the 
Democrats. In fact, several prominent journalists investigating the 
Watergate affair, including Lukas, came to the conclusion that Mullen 
CEO Robert Bennett was “Deep Throat,” the mysterious secret 

Spies for Hire 


informant who leaked Watergate information to Washington Post 
journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. According to Sena- 
tor Howard Baker’s Watergate report, “Bennett was feeding stories 
to Bob Woodward who was ‘suitably grateful’; ... he was making 
no attribution to Bennett; and ... he was protecting Bennett and 
Mullen and Company. According to Watergate defendant Chuck 
Colson, Bennett was the key figure in the CIA’s efforts to cover up 
its own role in Watergate and to blame the whole tiling on the White 
House.” 13 By positioning himself as an information source rather than 
a target of the Watergate investigation, Bennett survived the scan- 
dal with his reputation intact, and in 1992 Utah voters elected him 
to his father’s old seat in the US Senate. 

The Nestle Crunch 

In 1977, a church-based group of activists became concerned about 
the Swiss-based Nestle corporation and its deadly practice of selling 
infant formula to women in Third World countries. To stimulate sales, 
Nestle gave away free infant formula to hospitals along with “edu- 
cational materials" instructing women to use the formula to feed their 
newborns. Use of the free fonnula interrupted women’s lactation 
process, preventing their breasts from producing enough milk and 
obliging them to buy formula once the samples ran out. In the Third 
World, many people lack access to clean water, and poor people 
often cannot afford to buy sufficient formula. Women who were 
induced to use Nestle formula in place of breast milk often had no 
choice but to dilute the formula with contaminated water, leading 
to diarrhea, dehydration and death among Third World infants. 

Activists opposed to this practice originally planned a six-month 
publicity campaign around the issue, but Nestle’s hostile response 
backfired and prompted a protracted boycott of the company’s prod- 
ucts. Eventually over 700 churches and activist groups world-wide 
joined the boycott.' 4 

After three years of a losing confrontation, Nestle tried a differ- 
ent approach beginning in 1980 with the formation of the Nestle 
Coordination Center for Nutrition (NCCN). Nestle's chief strategists 
were Rafael Pagan and Jack Mongoven. Before entering the private 
sector, Pagan had been a military careerist whose work included 
political and economic briefings at the White House, a tour of duty 
at the Pentagon, and various missions to Latin America. Mongoven 
was a journalist before turning to political work as a Republican party 
organizer, followed by work in the communications office of the 



Nixon and Ford administrations. Although Mongoven did not have 
a military background, he had studied military strategy and found it 
useful in planning political campaigns. He and Pagan bonded on 
their first day together when Mongoven listed the “nine principles” 
of German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz during a strategy 
planning meeting. In developing their campaign, they also turned 
to Sun Tzu’s classic theoretical work, The Art of War. 

Pagan and Mongoven conducted an in-depth analysis of the coali- 
tion supporting the boycott and developed a “divide and conquer” 
strategy. Some of the boycott’s strongest support came from teach- 
ers, represented by the National Education Association, so NCCN 
courted support for Nestle from the American Federation of Teach- 
ers, a smaller, more conservative rival union.To counter the churches 
involved in the boycott, they needed to find a strong church that 
would take their side. The United Methodists were supporting the 
boycott, but through negotiations and piecemeal concessions, 
Nestle gradually succeeded in winning them over. Finally, NCCN 
helped establish the Nestle Infant Formula Audit Commission 
(NIFAC), an “independent” group chaired by former US Secretary of 
State Edmund S. Muskie for the purpose of “monitoring” Nestle’s 
compliance with the World Health Organization’s policies on mar- 
keting of breast-milk substitutes. Although NIFAC was organized by 
Nestle, NCCN carefully selected educators, clergy and scientists — 
including boycott supporters — whose service on the commission 
would create a perception of legitimacy, objectivity and fairness. 

It took years, but this strategy of appeasement and image manip- 
ulation gradually dampened the fires of outrage. In January 1984, 
the International Nestle Boycott Committee announced that they 
were ending the boycott. 15 In 1989, Nestle’s infant-formula market- 
ing practices prompted renewed concern, but this time the company 
was ready. They hired Ogilvy and Mather Public Relations to develop 
a strategy, called “proactive neutralization,” which included plans to 
monitor Nestle’s critics, an analysis of various church leaders and 
organizations to gauge how strongly they would support the boy- 
cott, and suggestions for winning over wavering boycott supporters. 
John Kelly, a BBC reporter who discovered the Ogilvy and Mather 
plan, described it as “an open and shut case of a spy plan.” 16 

The end of the bitterly-fought Nestle boycott left Rafael Pagan and 
Jack Mongoven with reputations as PR miracle workers, and a data- 
base of information about activist organizations. During the Nestle 
campaign, they had developed dossiers on groups such the Inter- 

Spies for Hire 


national Organization of Consumer Unions and the Pesticide Action 
Network, along with clergy and labor unioas. In 1985, they left Nestle 
to form their own PR firm, Pagan International, offering their exper- 
tise and strategic advice to defense contractors as well as the chem- 
icals, pharmaceuticals and foods industries. 17 Pagan’s clients quickly 
grew to include Union Carbide, Shell Oil, Ciba-Geigy Corp., 
Chevron and the Government of Puerto Rico. 18 

In 1987, the firm suffered an embarrassing setback when some- 
one leaked to the press its “Neptune Strategy” for helping Shell Oil 
counter a boycott against its business dealings in South Africa. 
Activists were pressuring Shell and other companies to pull out of 
South Africa as part of a campaign against the country’s racist 
apartheid system. Instead of divesting its South African holdings, the 
Neptune Strategy advised Shell to “develop a task force” of South 
Africans, church leaders, US activists and executives to issue a state- 
ment about the company’s role in helping South Africa prepare for 
life after apartheid and to develop “post-apartheid plans" that “will 
ensure the continuation and growth of the Shell companies in the 
United States and South Africa.” 

To implement this plan, Pagan International organized and sub- 
sidized a front group composed of black clergy called the Coalition 
on Southern Africa (COSA). Launched with great fanfare in Sep- 
tember 1987, COSA talked of ambitious plans to develop black-black 
business links between South Africa and the United States, promote 
education and training of South African blacks, and pressure for an 
end to apartheid. In reality, COSA was a paper front group with no 
resources to carry out these goals. According to Donna Katzin, a 
leader in the Shell boycott, COSA reflected a deliberate attempt to 
“divide and weaken the position of the religious community with 
regard to South Africa.” She noted that immediately after COSA was 
created, companies with South African operations began to point to 
COSA to show that not all US church groups backed disinvestment. 19 

Public disclosure of the Neptune Strategy prompted Shell to cancel 
its account with Pagan International, and company revenues 
plunged. Jack Mongoven left to form his own firm in partnership 
with other key Pagan executives, including Ronald Duchin and Alvin 
Biscoe. Lawsuits followed, with Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin com- 
plaining that Pagan owed them money, and Pagan accusing them 
of deliberately undermining the firm by leaking the Neptune Strat- 
egy to the press. Pagan went down in bankruptcy, but the new firm 
of Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin (MBD) has prospered. 20 



MBD Unplugged 

Like Pagan International, MBD specializes in providing “public policy 
intelligence.” Its services do not come cheap. Regular clients pay a 
retainer ranging from S3, 500 to $9,000 per month. In addition, Mon- 
goven, Biscoe & Duchin sometimes produces special reports, such 
as a 1989 analysis of the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of 
the country’s leading mainstream environmental organizations. Cor- 
porations interested in obtaining the report paid Si, 500 per copy. 21 

The company refuses to name its clients, but an internal MBD 
document says they “are almost all members of the Fortune 100 and 
six are members of the Fortune top 20.” 22 Known clients include 
Monsanto, DuPont, Philip Morris and Shell Oil. Mike Miles, the for- 
mer CEO of Philip Morris, had a particular affinity for MBD’s cold- 
war style. According to PR executive Robert Dilenschneider, Miles 
“has a voracious appetite for intelligence, and he’s very much aware 
of the other side’s intelligence-gathering efforts. He’s so careful that 
he has his company’s travel people glue stickers on airline ticket jack- 
ets cautioning his executives not to talk shop while en route!” 23 

MBD tries to get on the mailing list of as many organizations as 
possible. Its employees read activist newsletters and other publica- 
tions to keep tabs on controversial issues that may affect its clients. 
Those interests have expanded vastly beyond the food safety issues 
that concerned Pagan and Mongoven during the Nestle boycott. 
According to MBD documents, they include: “acid rain, clean air, 
clean water, hazardous and toxic wastes, nuclear energy, recycling, 
South Africa, the United Nations, developments in Eastern Europe, 
dioxin, organic farming, pesticides, biotechnology, vegetarianism, 
consumer groups, product safety, endangered species, oil spills.” 
Information related to all of these topics is sifted and reviewed by 
company analysts, then distilled into reports and memos. 24 

MBD’s promotional brochure says the purpose of this research is 
to maintain “extensive files on organizations and their leadership,” 
particularly “environmental and consumer groups, churches and 
other organizations which seek changes in public policy.” A typical 
dossier on an organization includes its historical background, bio- 
graphical information on key personnel, funding sources, relation- 
ships with other organizations, publications, and a “characterization” 
of the organization aimed at assessing the potential for coopting or 
marginalizing the organization’s impact on public policy debates. 25 

To gather information, MBD also uses covert operatives like “Bud” 
Vestermark and Kara Zeigler. Kara spies both in person and over 

Spies for Hire 


the phone, falsely representing herself as “a writer for Z Magazine ’ 26 
or a friend-of-a-friend. 27 Sometimes she will correctly identify her- 
self as representing “MBD, a public affairs company,” without elab- 
orating on the real reasons behind her call. 

In one single day, Kara placed calls to an aide to US Senator Russ 
Feingold (D-Wisconsin); Dr. Michael Hansen of Consumers Union, 
the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine; and Wisconsin dairy 
farmer Francis Goodman. She was calling as part of a frenetic MBD 
campaign to gather “intelligence” about groups opposed to the use 
of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a controversial new 
genetically-engineered drug being injected into dairy cows. 

The Mutations Industry 

Monsanto, the developer of rBGH, is one of the world’s largest 
transnational corporations, manufacturing a wide range of chemi- 
cals, drugs and other high-tech products — many of which are dan- 
gerous or lethal. Monsanto was the manufacturer of most of the 
world’s PCBs — persistent chemicals used in electrical equipment 
which have been shown to cause cancer and birth defects. It is 
also the world’s largest producer of herbicides, including prod- 
ucts contaminated with dioxin. In the area of consumer products, 
Monsanto produces the Ortho line of lawn chemicals, as well as 
NutraSweet,™ a sugar substitute whose safety has been challenged 
by safe food activists. 

Bovine growth hormone is the flagship product in Monsanto’s 
attempt to claim leadership in the fledgling biotechnology industry. 
Designed to replicate a hormone that occurs naturally in cows, rBGH 
can increase milk production by up to 25 percent when injected into 
daily cows. Monsanto spent hundreds of millions of dollais devel- 
oping rBGH for commercial use, and has hyped the synthetic hor- 
mone as a miracle technology that will increase milk production and 
lower food costs to consumers. 

In 1985, Monsanto Chief Executive Richard J. Mahoney estimated 
the potential market for rBGH at $1 billion a year once the hormone 
received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The 
stakes for the biotechnology industry as a whole were even higher. 
Other chemical and drug giants such as Eli Lilly, American Cyanamid, 
W.R. Grace, Upjohn and Calgene also had major investments in 
biotech development and were poised to follow Monsanto’s lead by 
introducing their own genetically-altered fruits, vegetables and farm 
animals — “frankenfoods” such as genetically-engineered cows 



from Bristol-Myers Squibb that produce human mother’s milk 
protein; potatoes that kill pests by producing their own insecticide; 
slow-ripening tomatoes; virus-resistant squash; herbicide-tolerant 
cotton and soybean plants; growth hormone for pigs; and meat from 
cloned cattle. 

Beginning in 1986, however, rBGH faced organized international 
resistance spearheaded by Jeremy Rifkin’s Foundation on Economic 
Trends. The issue attracted other rBGH opponents including the Con- 
sumers Union, the Humane Society of the US, Food and Water, Inc., 
and grassroots farmer organizations. Critics of the hormone raised a 
number of serious questions about its safety and alleged benefits: 

• Monsanto’s own tests showed increased levels of mastitis, a painful 
udder infection, in cows injected with rBGH. According to food 
safety experts, increased mastitis would force farmers to use more 
antibiotics, which would then be more likely to contaminate the 
cows’ milk. Milk from treated cows would also spoil faster because 
it contains more bacteria and has a higher “somatic cell count.” 
(Translated from scientific jargon into layman’s language, this 
means that rBGH-induced milk contains “more pus.”) 28 

• Dr. Richard Burroughs worked for the FDA from 1985 to 1988, 
analyzing test data supplied by Monsanto and the other compa- 
nies engaged in developing rBGH. His analysis convinced him that 
the companies were manipulating data. In 1989, Burroughs was 
fired after he went to Congress accusing his superiors of cover- 
ing up this information. 29 

• Cows treated with rBGH need to consume more protein, often in 
the form of “rendered animal protein” derived from the carcasses 
of cows and other dead animals. Cows consuming animal byprod- 
ucts are susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also 
known as “mad cow disease.” This disease has plagued England 
for a decade, and some doctors worry that it could migrate from 
cows to humans as a fatal dementia called CJD.“ 

• Increased milk production from rBGH hardly seemed like a bless- 
ing to dairy fanners struggling for survival in an already glutted 
market. And rBGH came with extra costs. Small dairy farmers, reel- 
ing from high production costs and low market prices, worried 
that the hormone threatened their livelihood, already threatened 
by competition from huge farm conglomerates. 31 

In response to this opposition, Monsanto and its corporate allies 
pulled out all the stops. They hired a who’s-who list of heavy-hitting 

Spies for Hire 


PR firms and lobbyists, including Hill & Knowlton; Burson-Marsteller; 
Edelman; Jerry Dryer & Associates; Manning, Selvage & Lee; Morgan 
& Myers; Porter/Novelli; Covington & Burling; King & Spalding; and 
Foreman & Heidepreim. The PR effort included presentations to dairy 
fanners and veterinarians, lobbying of state legislators and the dis- 
tribution of thousands of brochures, videotapes and other pro-rBGH 
materials to the press and the general public. The Animal Health Insti- 
tute, based in Alexandria, Virginia, coordinated the PR campaign. 
During the three years from 1988 to 1991 alone, the Animal Health 
Institute spent over $900,000 on rBGH promotion. 

Activists caught a glimpse of one PR firm’s methodology for doing 
“opposition research” in November 1990. The Consumers Union, 
publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, was preparing a highly crit- 
ical report on rBGH when a woman claiming to be a scheduler for 
ABC-TV’s Nightline contacted Michael Hansen, the report’s author, 
and requested a preview of his findings. The woman said Nightline 
was interested in Hansen’s research for a show they were consid- 
ering on the rBGH controversy, and asked Hansen to fax her his 
curriculum vita. Somewhat suspicious, Hansen phoned a friend at 
ABC to follow up on the Nightline call. His friend, David Sostman, 
who worked in the tape library at ABC News, discovered that no 
one on the Nightline staff had contacted Hansen. Intrigued, Sostman 
tracked the mystery caller. “The bottom line was they said they were 
calling from ABC but the fax number they gave came from [PR firm] 
Burson-Marsteller’s office," he said. 32 

As part of its public relations campaign, the pro-rBGH coalition 
used polling and focus groups to determine public attitudes toward 
dairy foods from hormone-treated cows. The results were discourag- 
ing. Surveys showed widespread consumer doubts about the indus- 
try’s claim that rBGH milk would be identical to milk from untreated 
cows. A large majority, particularly parents with children under 18, 
reported a fear that ill effects caused by rBGH would be discovered 
in the future. 

In late 1989, media coverage of rBGH intensified, and per capita 
consumption of milk began to decline. The pro-rBGH Daily Coali- 
tion responded by setting up consumer telephone hotlines and des- 
ignated over 250 “regional experts,” including doctors, nutritionists 
and animal scientists, to act as media contacts. The coalition pre- 
pared “educational resource kits” for distribution to over 5,000 tar- 
geted recipients, including dairy retailers, state and national trade 
associations, national and state consumer media, and members of the 



National Association of Science Writers. The PR campaign lined up 
supporters from the American Academy of Pediatrics and die National 
Institutes of Health. It arranged for the American Medical Associa- 
tion to publish an article and an editorial (written by scientists who 
had received research grants from Monsanto) claiming that all avail- 
able scientific evidence showed rBGH was safe. 

The National Dairy Promotion and Research Board, a quasi-gov- 
ernmental agency, also bought into the campaign. In theory, the 
National Dairy Board is supposed to promote the interests of dairy 
farmers. Its $75 million annual budget comes from farmers in the 
form of mandatoiy deductions from milk sales. Publicly, the Dairy 
Board declared its “neutrality” on the rBGH issue. However, inter- 
nal documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act 
revealed that the Board was working in coalition with Monsanto. 

Secret Agents 

In November 1991, a farm advocacy group called Rural Vermont 
issued a report based on infonnation obtained from a dairy scien- 
tist at the University of Vermont, one of the state universities around 
the country engaged in testing rBGH research sponsored by Mon- 
santo. Contraiy to Monsanto's claims of rBGH safety, the scientist’s 
data showed an unusually high rate of defonned calves born to 
rBGH-treated cows. University officials reacted with outrage. Univer- 
sity PR spokesperson Nicola Marro insisted in an interview that the 
Rural Vermont report was merely the first wave of a national, well- 
coordinated campaign against rBGH organized by Jeremy Rifkin. 
How did Marro know that this campaign was being planned? “Mon- 
santo had a mole in Rifkin’s meeting,” Marro said. 33 

A little research quickly confirmed the truth of Marro’s boast. In 
October 1990, Rifkin’s organization had participated in a conference 
in Washington, DC, to oppose rBGH. One of the participants at the 
meeting was a woman who identified herself as Diane Moser, an 
intern working for the “Maryland Citizens Consumer Council.” As 
conference participants racked their brains to guess who might have 
been the “mole,” several people immediately thought of her. Moser 
had brought a book to the meeting and avoided small talk. “She said 
she represented housewives concerned about BGH,” recalled 
Andrew Christianson, a Vermont state representative who had been 
at the DC meeting. “I had suspicions immediately. I’ve never seen 
anyone with a paperback coming to a meeting like that. It’s usually 
pretty serious activists.” 34 

Spies for Hire 


An investigation quickly showed that the “Maryland Citizens Con- 
sumer Council” did not exist, and sleuthing by activists revealed that 
Moser was an employee of Burson-Marsteller. A reporter called Tim- 
othy Brosnahan, general manager for B-M’s Washington office. “I 
know Diane, but I have no idea what she does in her spare time,” 
Brosnahan said. 35 Further investigation linked another member of the 
nonexistent Maryland Citizens Consumer Council to Burson- 
Marsteller — Laurie Ross (a.k.a. “Lisa Ellis”), who, like Diane Moser, 
worked under the supervision of B-M vice-president Sheila Raviv. 
In response to reporters’ questions, Raviv — who has since been pro- 
moted to CEO of B-M’s Washington office — behaved like a model 
spymaster, disavowing any knowledge of the operation. 36 

Kaufman PR, the National Dairy Board’s PR agency from 1990-91, 
spied on another anti-rBGH meeting, this time in New York City in 
January of 1990. After the event, organizers discovered that Mon- 
santo PR coordinator Larry O'Neil had successfully contacted New 
York media in advance of the conference to convince them it would 
not be newsworthy. A check of National Dairy Board records through 
the Freedom of Information Act showed that several of the confer- 
ence attendees w r ere PR spies. Four days before the meeting, Kauf- 
man PR had signed a subcontract agreement with the Direct Impact 
Co., an Alexandria, Virginia, PR firm that specializes in “grassroots 
lobbying.” The agreement called for Direct Impact to recruit 
“between six and eight residents of New York to attend the event, 
monitor developments, ask questions, and provide other support as 
appropriate. Each attendee must be able to articulate the basic 
Ipro-rBGH] arguments on the issue and cite one or more substan- 
tive reasons for supporting the Dairy Board's position.” 37 

The purpose of the covert operation was apparently to minimize 
news coverage of the conference, and to “spin” the coverage by 
planting “housewives” in the audience who would appear to favor 
injecting milk cows with bovine growth hormone. 

The Kaufman/Direct Impact covert action was less than subtle. 
"When a woman said she was a typical housewife and then made 
highly technical statements, you knew she hadn’t gleaned her infor- 
mation from Better Homes and Gardens. It was kind of a B-grade 
spy routine,” said conference organizer Dave Carter. 38 

Going to the Dogs 

The ubiquitous Seymour (“Bud”) Vestermark spied on anti-rBGH 
groups and also infiltrated a number of animals rights organizations 



in the late 1980s. His name appeared as senior contributing editor 
on a newsletter titled the Animal Rights Reporter, published by 
Perceptions Press. The Animal Rights Reporter claimed to be an 
“objective analysis of the animal rights movement.” In reality, it 
offered persistently negative reporting on animal rights groups and 
advice on undermining the movement. Animal rights activists who 
saw the newsletter were shocked to find that it contained details 
about their organizations that could only have been known by their 
own members. 39 

Fund for Animals staffer Heidi Prescott recalls someone pointing 
Vestermark out to her and warning that he was a spy when she first 
began attending rallies in 1989. “It was kind of common knowledge 
among people who went to all of the animal rights events,” she said. 
“He was laid-back and came across real friendly. He’d show up and 
lurk around and talk to people. Usually someone would recognize 
him and go over and say, He works for Perceptions Press.’ ” 40 

Perceptions Press was the publishing arm of a two-company oper- 
ation owned by Jan Reber, an unlicensed “private investigator” whose 
other business, Perceptions International, provided “information gath- 
ering” and “security” services to transnational corporations, includ- 
ing “research on coercive trends and movements that affect 
business” — in particular, animal rights activists and environmental- 
ists. 41 Its clients included Leon Hirsch, the controversial president of 
the US Surgical Company in Norwalk, Connecticut. US Surgical man- 
ufactures surgical staples, used in place of conventional sutures to 
close wounds and surgical incisions. Financially, the company was 
a smashing success, with S91-2 million in profits in 1991, of which 
$23-3 million in salary and stock options went to Hirsch himself. 42 

Hirsch called himself an “only in America” success story, but 
animal rights activists were upset with the methods the company 
used to market its product. To demonstrate the advantages of staples 
over sutures, US Surgical conducts “training demonstrations” for sur- 
geons in which they cut open live dogs and staple their intestines. 
After the demonstration, the dogs are killed. By US Surgical’s own 
estimate, it disposes of over 1,000 dogs a year. 43 

In 1981, a local newspaper wrote an article about the company’s 
use of dogs, prompting a series of protests outside US Surgical Head- 
quarters by a Norwalk animal rights group, Friends of Animals (FOA). 
Following one demonstration, FOA vice-president Sarah Seymour dis- 
covered that she was being followed by Bud Vestermark and Jan 
Reber. They tailed her by car to her child’s school and took photo- 

Spies for Hire 


Activists turned the 
tables on Seymour 
“Bud” Vestermark, Jr., 
by taking this picture 
of him as he spied on 
an animal rights rally, 
(photo courtesy of 
Friends of Animals) 

graphs of her. Sarah Seymour went over to confront them, and Reber 
denied that he was following her. “I’m just here to pick up my own 
kid,” he said. Seymour checked and learned that none of Reber’s 
children were enrolled at the school. The incident upset her. It 
seemed like an attempt at intimidation. But it was nothing compared 
to later events. 

Bombing the Boss 

According to journalist Lisa McGurrin Driscoll, Mary Lou Sapone 
entered the animal rights movement in the summer of 1987 when 
she appeared at a conference in Washington, DC. “She just burst on 
the scene,” said Julie Lewin, FOA’s Connecticut coordinator. A 
friendly, talkative woman, Sapone immediately became involved in 
at least a half dozen animal rights groups. She seemed to be every- 
where, traveling all around the country' to participate in protests, 
meetings and conferences. 4 '* 

Animal rights activists began to have suspicions about Sapone. 
Unlike most activists, she seemed to have unlimited time and money. 



She seemed unusually inquisitive, making a point of getting to know 
all of the key people in the movement. “She always asked questions 
and carried a pad of paper, taking notes," said Kim Bartlett, editor 
of a magazine called Animals Agenda, who first met Sapone in June, 
1987, at a demonstration in Massachusetts. Bartlett noticed that 
Sapone's statements “didn’t add up. . . . First she said she was a psy- 
chologist, then a Lamaze instructor and then a social worker.” Betsy 
Swart, chairwoman of a San Francisco-based animal rights group, 
became so suspicious of Sapone’s questions that “1 made up a date 
and told her there would be a demonstration.” Within days, Swart 
said, she received a call from a government official asking about the 
“demonstration. ” 45 

Sapone frequently urged others to commit violent or illegal dis- 
ruptions. “She showed a lack of judgment, always looking for action. 
This woman clearly seemed to be reckless, with no appreciation for 
the political and moral ramifications of violence,” Lewin said.'* 6 

In April 1988, Sapone and Lewin attended a demonstration in New 
York City, where Sapone introduced Lewin to a woman named Fran 
Stephanie Trutt, a 33-year-old part-time math teacher who Sapone 
described as “someone who lobbies in New York.” Lewin was not 
impressed with Trutt, who “seemed disheveled and not too tightly 
wrapped. She wore lumpy clothing, and her hair was askew.” After 
talking to her briefly, Lewin decided that Trutt was “pretty crazy” 
and excused herself. 

FOA president Priscilla Feral had met Trutt two years earlier at a 
US Surgical demonstration, and formed a similar opinion. “My assis- 
tant saw her stomping on azaleas. She seemed particularly angry,” 
Feral recalled. 47 

Unlike the other animal rights activists, Mary Lou Sapone took an 
active interest in Trutt, befriending her and cultivating a close rela- 
tionship. Over the course of the next six months, Sapone and Trutt 
spoke by phone at least two or three times a week. 48 Unbeknownst 
to Trutt, Sapone — a spy for Perceptions International — was secretly 
tape-recording the conversations and giving the tapes to US Surgi- 
cal, along with written reports detailing her efforts to incite Trutt into 
carrying out a murder attempt against US Surgical president Leon 
Hirsch. In 1988, US Surgical paid Perceptions International over 
$500,000 for its services, of which $65,000 went to pay Sapone. 49 
Normally, of course, company presidents do not pay to arrange their 
own murder, but Hirsch was neither crazy nor suicidal. He was trying 
to engineer an embarrassing scandal that would discredit the animal 

Spies for Hire 


rights movement, and — if the resulting sensational court case had 
not unearthed tape transcripts and other confidential company doc- 
uments — he probably would have succeeded. 

Fran Trutt was a vulnerable, lonely, angiy woman. She talked 
wildly of killing her ex-lover. The transcripts of Sapone’s phone con- 
versations with Tmtt show Sapone’s efforts to direct that anger toward 
Leon Hirsch. On May 23, for example, the two women reviewed pos- 
sible murder scenarios. Tmtt commented that the police would prob- 
ably identify her as a suspect if she killed her ex-lover. 

Sapone replied: “Well, maybe you could, so maybe you should 
do Leon first.” 

Tmtt laughed, and Sapone added, “I mean, if you think that this, 
with this other guy that they should come to you — ” 

“Well, the other one, they’re going to come to me first. There’s 
no question about that,” Tmtt said. 

"So maybe you should do Leon first,” Sapone repeated. 50 

When Tmtt showed signs of losing her resolve, Perceptions 
orchestrated a supposedly “accidental” meeting in September 
1988 between Trutt and another agent, Marcus Mead. The meeting 
took place in a pizza shop, where Mead struck up a conver- 
sation with Trutt by asking her for advice on taking care of his 
puppies. Mead, whose sister was employed by US Surgical, was paid 
$500 a week to befriend Tmtt and to help egg her on. To help him 
impress her, US Surgical loaned him the use of a Porsche and an 
Alfa-Romeo. 51 

Sapone and Mead gave Tmtt money to buy bombs. In a tape- 
recorded conversation on November 10, Tmtt thanked Sapone for 
giving her $100 which Tmtt used for rent. Sapone replied, “if you 
want to use it for the bomb first or the rent first, I mean, I didn't 
care because, you know, you knew what you had to do.” 52 The 
following day, Mead drove Tmtt and two pipe bombs from New 
York to US Surgical headquarters in Connecticut, where she was 
arrested under a pre-arranged deal with the Norwalk Police Depart- 
ment. 53 Animal rights activists later wondered why the police had 
allowed Mead to drive an explosive device across interstate high- 
ways rather than simply arrest Tmtt at her home where the bombs 
had been stored. The arrest seemed staged for maximum publicity 
value, with public safety a secondary concern. 

News of the arrest spread quickly dirough the animal rights move- 
ment. Shocked and alarmed, Julie Lewin phoned Sapone trying to 
figure out who Tmtt was. In the ensuing conversation, which was 



also secretly recorded, Sapone withheld information about her rela- 
tionship with T'rutt and pretended to search her memory. 

“I think the name is familiar,” Sapone said. “I’m trying to piece 
this together. ... I remember the last name because it was kind of 
distinctive. It was like a strong — you know, I remember. I remem- 
ber names sometimes. . . .” 

A local reporter had informed Lewin that a tip had thwarted the 
bombing, prompting Lewin to speculate that the bombing might have 
been “ agent provocateur kind of stuff, like in the ’60s.” 

“What would that gain?” Sapone asked with false naivete. 

“It gains a blackening of our movement.” 

“Oh, I see.” 

“No one that I work with in the state would ever consider such 
an act,” Lewin said. “We’d be the first to turn them in.” 

“Gosh,” said Sapone the provocateur, “this is like a nightmare.” 54 
For US Surgical, of course, the “nightmare” was a long-cherished 
dream. The Animal Rights Repo/1er\ost no time in denouncing Trutt’s 
action as a comparable to “the shooting down of a civilian Rhode- 
sian airline by a local terrorist group" and “murderous attacks like 
the Achille Lauro incident.” 55 

Even after Sapone’s role in befriending and encouraging Trutt was 
disclosed, US Surgical continued to claim that the incident was an 
example of “terrorist” tendencies in the animal rights movement. 
“People think of animal rights as protecting the birds in the winter 
and the little puppies," said US Surgical Attorney Hugh F. Keefe. “I 
don’t think they realize the militancy that has invaded some of these 
groups.” Keefe used pretrial proceedings to seek exhaustive infor- 
mation about Friends of Animals, including lists of all contributors, 
Julie Lewin’s personal diary and personal income tax returns, and 
all of her medical and psychiatric records — a request she interpreted 
as an effort to dig up dirt on the animal rights movement. 56 

“The people who are challenging this corporation are very small,” 
said New Haven attorney John Williams, who represented both Trutt 
and Lewin. “US Surgical is going berserk and spending enormous 
amounts of money. It’s become a personal vendetta for Leon Hirsch. 
The kinds of abuses that we associate with the FBI under J. Edgar 
Hoover are now in the realm of private corporations subsidizing a 
private security force.” 57 


DividE ANd Conquer 

We see then that there are many ways to one’s object in War; that 
the complete subjugation of the enemy is not essential in every case. 

On War 

In 1980, a drunk driver killed the 13-year-old daughter of Candy 
L. Lightner. Devastated and angry, Lightner created an organization 
called Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), to publicize the suf- 
fering caused by drug and alcohol abuse. Hollywood publicist 
Michael Levine described Lightner as a natural practitioner of what 
he calls “guerrilla PR.” In his book by that title, Levine praised “this 
dynamic woman” who “used the sheer strength of her character to 
forge a movement.” After Lightner and her surviving daughter held 
a press conference to describe the consequences of drunk driving, 
Levine said, “a photo of the tearful mother and daughter flashed 
around the world, and suddenly the agony of death from driving 
under the influence had a face and a name: Candy Lightner.” 

“We hadn’t planned scenes of crying," Lightner said. “But instinc- 
tively we knew the media need something dramatic." After seeing 
the reaction to the photo, she learned to use visuals in dramatizing 
her cause. In a campaign to pass a California bill requiring a five- 
cent tax on alcohol, she sent her daughter to buy a six-pack with a 
fake ID. She then held a press conference — with her daughter sit- 
ting behind a small mountain of beer cans she’d just bought, illus- 
trating how enormous the problem actually was. 1 

MADD quickly grew to three million members in the US alone, 
but Lightner’s talents have been diverted to other purposes. In 1985 
she left the organization over disagreements that included her desire 




to have MADD receive financial contributions from the liquor 
industry. She moved to Washington, DC, where she was hired 
by the American Beverage Institute, a liquor industry trade group, 
to help defeat MADD-supported laws that would toughen blood- 
alcohol tests. 2 

Dealing With Idealists 

Since at least the days of Aristotle, practitioners of the art of rhetoric 
have understood that an endorsement from their opponent carries 
more persuasive power than anything they can say themselves. The 
public relations industry therefore carefully cultivates activists who 
can be coopted into working against the goals of their movement. 
This strategy has been outlined in detail by Ronald Duchin, senior 
vice-president of PR spy firm Mongoven, Biscoe and Duchin. A grad- 
uate of the US Army War College, Duchin worked as a special assis- 
tant to the Secretary of Defense and director of public affairs for the 
Veterans of Foreign Wars before joining Pagan International and 
MBD. In a 1991 speech to the National Cattlemen’s Association, he 
described how MBD works to divide and conquer activist move- 
ments. Activists, he explained, fall into four distinct categories: “rad- 
icals,” “opportunists,” “idealists,” and “realists.” He outlined a 
three-step strategy: (1) isolate the radicals; (2) “cultivate” the ideal- 
ists and “educate” them into becoming realists; then (3) coopt the 
realists into agreeing with industry. 3 

According to Duchin, radical activists “want to change the sys- 
tem; have underlying socio/political motives” and see multinational 
corporations as “inherently evil. . . . These organizations do not trust 
the . . . federal, state and local governments to protect them and to 
safeguard the environment. They believe, rather, that individuals and 
local groups should have direct power over industry'. ... I would 
categorize their principal aims right now as social justice and polit- 
ical empowerment.” 

Idealists are also “hard to deal with." They “want a perfect world 
and find it easy to brand any product or practice which can be shown 
to mar that perfection as evil. Because of dieir intrinsic altruism, how- 
ever, and because they have nothing perceptible to be gained by 
holding their position, they are easily believed by both the media 
and the public, and sometimes even politicians.” However, idealists 
“have a vulnerable point. If they can be shown that their position 
in opposition to an industry or its products causes harm to others 
and cannot be ethically justified, they are forced to change their posi- 

Divide and Conquer 


tion. . . . Thus, while a realist must be negotiated with, an idealist 
must be educated. Generally this education process requires great 
sensitivity and understanding on the part of the educator.” 

By contrast, opportunists and realists are easier to manipulate. 
Duchin defines opportunists as people who engage in activism seek- 
ing “visibility, power, followers and, perhaps, even employment. . . . 
The key to dealing with opportunists is to provide them with at least 
the perception of a partial victory.” And realists are able to “live with 
trade-offs; willing to work within the system; not interested in radi- 
cal change; pragmatic. The realists should always receive the high- 
est priority in any strategy dealing with a public policy issue. ... If 
your industry can successfully bring about these relationships, the 
credibility of the radicals will be lost and opportunists can be counted 
on to share in the final policy solution.”' 1 

Flacks to Greens: “Grow Up and Take the Cash” 

The February 1994 issue of O' Dwyer's PR Sendees Report gives a 
candid description of the PR industry’s strategy for encouraging sec- 
tors of the environmental movement to enter into “partnerships” with 
major polluters: “The lessons of the recent recession have taught PR 
people that no matter how idealistic a company sounds, it puts the 
bottom line ahead of cleaning up its mess,” 5 admits an editorial 
accompanying the report. As a cost-effective alternative, “such com- 
panies are finding that cold cash will buy them good will from the 
environmental movement. Cash-rich companies, PR people say, are 
funding hard-up environmental groups in the belief [that] the impri- 
matur of activists will go a long way in improving their reputation 
among environmentally aware consumers.” 6 

On the other side of the “partnership,” O ’Dwyer’s observes, “non- 
profit groups are beginning to realize that private sector cash can 
increase an organization’s clout and bankroll membership build- 
ing programs.” O’Dwyer’s sees this increased willingness to take “pri- 
vate sector cash” as evidence of “maturing” in the environmental 
movement. 7 

O ’Dwyer’s interviewed Dale Didion of Hill &. Knowlton in Wash- 
ington, DC, the nation’s third largest “environmental PR firm.” Didion 
said companies are learning that they can “hire members of the envi- 
ronmental group’s staff to help on certain projects. This is a tremen- 
dous benefit for a company that w r ants to have access to top green 
experts. Companies can avail themselves of talented researchers, sci- 
entists and analysts at very reasonable prices.” 8 



Getting a relationship started between a company and an envi- 
ronmental group carries some risks as well. “It might be in both par- 
ties’ interest at first to keep their relationship out of the news,” says 
Didion. “Work out early how and when the relationship will be 
announced to the media — and what measure should be taken if word 
leaks out prematurely,” he advises. 

O 'Dtvyer’s suggested some “cost-free and virtually risk free” ways 
to “test the waters” when entering into a relationship with an envi- 
ronmental group: “Help them raise money. Offer to sit on their board 
of directors. That can open up a good symbiotic relationship.” 
Another effective tool is for the company to bankroll a conference 
on a topic of mutual interest, or fund an issue-specific publication 
for the nonprofit group. “The company gets substantial input into 
the content because the publication has its name on it,” Didion said . 9 

Strange Bedfellows 

To help industry determine how and which activists can be coopted, 
the Public Affairs Council, a trade association for public relations 
executives, sponsors a tax-exempt organization called the Founda- 
tion for Public Affairs. Funding comes from a who’s-who list of Amer- 
ica’s corporate establishment including Ameritech, Ashland Oil, 
Boeing, Dow Chemical, Exxon, Health Insurance Association of 
America, Philip Morris, Mobil, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associ- 
ation, RJR Nabisco, and Shell Oil. Many PR/lobby firms also are 
members, including Bonner & Associates; Burson-Marsteller; E. Bruce 
Harrison; The Jefferson Group; and Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin . 10 

The Foundation for Public Affairs monitors more than 75 spe- 
cialized activist publications, and gathers information on “more than 
1,300 activist organizations, research institutions, and other groups .” 11 
Until 1993 , the Foundation published an impressive bi-annual direc- 
tory titled Public Interest Profiles which offered “intelligence on 250 
of the nation’s key public interest groups" including “current con- 
cerns, budget, funding sources, board of directors, publications, con- 
ferences, and methods of operation .” 12 In the 1992-93 version of this 
phonebook-sized tract, groups were profiled in chapters headed 
“Community/Grassroots," “Corporate Accountability/Responsibility,” 
“Environmental,” “Think Tanks," etc . 13 

Once a year, the Foundation for Public Affairs organizes a two- 
day Annual Conference on Activist Groups and Public Policymaking, 
where professional activists and staff members of prominent DC- 
based consumer and environmental organizations are invited to rub 

Divide and Conquer 


shoulders with influential corporate PR executives. The conference 
helps corporate flacks learn how to dissect the strategies, tactics and 
agendas of these activists, to better defeat or coopt their activism. 
The meeting is billed as a strictly off-the-record affair, “a one-of-a- 
kind opportunity to explore the agendas, strategies and influence of 
leading public interest groups.” 1 * 

According to a promotional brochure, the purpose of the 1993 
conference was to help PR executives find out the answers to ques- 
tions such as: “What tactics are being employed by activists to achieve 
their goals? What methods can be used by business in cultivating 
ties with activist groups and what are the potential benefits . . . and/or 
drawbacks?” 15 Corporate attendance cost $545. Featured speakers 
included MBD’s Ronald Duchin, along with Gene Karpinsky, head 
of the US Public Interest Research Group, and Gustav E. Jackson of 
the Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes. Stephen Brobeck, 
executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, also spoke 
for an hour “on what the dominant consumer issues and trends will 
be throughout the decade and what it all portends for corporate 
America.” Conference attendees also heard from right-wing speak- 
ers including Patrick Noonan, the President of the Conservation Fund 
who sits on the Board of Ashland Oil; Ralph Reed, Executive Direc- 
tor of the Christian Coalition; and Fred Smith of the Competitive 
Enterprise Institute. 16 

The Best Friends Money Can Buy 

The American Civil Liberties Union is one of the organizations that 
has been successfully recruited by the tobacco industry to promote 
the myth that smoking is a “civil right” comparable to freedom of 
speech and association. The ACLU denies charges by the Advocacy 
Institute that it is beholden to tobacco interests, but it cannot deny 
its own financial records, which show that the ACLU solicited and 
accepted about $500,000 in contributions from tobacco interests 
between 1987 and 1992, without disclosing the largesse to its ACLU 
membership. 17 

In Monsanto’s campaign for approval of bovine growth hormone, 
it was able to buy the support of Carol Tucker Foreman, formerly 
executive director of the Consumer Federation of America. Foreman 
took a job in early 1993 as a personal lobbyist for Monsanto's rBGH 
team, for what is rumored to be an exceptionally large fee. With her 
help, Monsanto has successfully prevented Congress or the FDA from 
requiring labeling of milk from rBGH-injected cows, and in fact the 



company has used threats of lawsuits to intimidate dairy retailers who 
want to label their milk “rBGH-free.” 

Foreman, a fonner Assistant Secretary of Agriculture, is also the 
coordinator and lobbyist for the Safe Food Coalition, which calls itself 
“an alliance of consumer advocacy, senior citizen, whistleblower pro- 
tection and labor organizations.” Formed in 1987 by Foreman, its 
members include such public interest heavyweights as Michael Jacob- 
son’s Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Ralph Nader’s 
Public Citizen, and Public Voice for Food and Health Policy. 18 

When interviewed, Foreman said she saw no conflict of interest 
between lobbying for rBGH and for the Safe Food Coalition. “The 
FDA has said rBGH is safe,” she explained, adding “Why don’t you 
call CSPI, they say rBGH is safe too?” When asked how much money 
she has received from Monsanto to lobby for rBGH, she angrily 
declined to answer, saying “What in the world business is that of 
yours?” Her DC consulting firm, Foreman & Heidepreim, refused to 
provide further information and referred journalists to Monsanto’s 
PR department. 19 

Playing Both Sides 

In the November 22, 1993, Legal Times, writer Sheila Kaplan describes 
the work of Porter/Novelli, a New York-based PR firm that special- 
izes in what founder William Novelli refers to as “cross-pollination.” 
By providing free work for health-related charities, Porter/Novelli 
is often able to persuade them to support the interests of its paying 
corporate clients. In spring of 1993, for example, produce growers 
and pesticide manufacturers represented by Porter/Novelli were 
alarmed to learn that the Public Broadcasting Service was about 
to air a documentary by Bill Moyers on the cancer risks that pesti- 
cides pose to children. To rebut the documentary, they turned to 
the government’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the American 
Cancer Society (ACS). Porter/Novelli works for NCI and has provided 
free services to the ACS for over 20 years. It persuaded the national 
office of ACS to issue a memo downplaying the risk of cancer from 
pesticides. “The program makes unfounded suggestions . . . that 
pesticide residues in food may be at hazardous levels,” said the 
memo, which the pesticide industry cited as “evidence” that the Moy- 
ers documentary overstated dangers to children from pesticides. 20 

“I have a longstanding concern that contractors work both sides 
of the street and that government agencies are unaware of these 
conflicting relationships,” said Senator David Pryor (D-Ark.), the 

Divide and Conquer 


chairman of the subcommittee that oversees federal contracts. “This 
remains a glaring deficiency.” 21 

Hill & Knowlton executive Nina Oligino used a similar “cross-polli- 
nation” strategy in 1994 to line up national environmental groups 
behind a coalition called “Partners for Sun Protection Awareness,” a 
front group for Hill & Knowlton’s client, ding transnational Scher- 
ing-Plough. Best known for Coppertone™ sun lotion, Schering- 
Plough uses the coalition to “educate” the public about the dangers 
of skin cancer deaths, cataracts and damaged immune systems due 
to the atmosphere’s thinning ozone layer and increased ultraviolet 
radiation. The campaign urges people to “liberally apply a sunscreen 
. . . to all exposed parts of the body before going outdoors. 22 

Hill & Knowlton successfully enlisted leaders of the Natural 
Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club to add their names to 
the “Partners for Sun Protection" letterhead. Apparently these groups 
are little more than a dash of green window-dressing for the cam- 
paign. The “Partners” offered no proposals for preventing further 
thinning of the ozone layer. A representative of one of the environ- 
mental groups, who asked not to be named, said he was ignorant of 
the Schering-Plough funding and its hidden agenda to sell sun lotion. 

The best prevention for sun-caused skin cancer is, of course, to 
cover up completely, but saying so would be market suicide for the 
world’s largest maker of suntan lotion and purveyor of the sexy “Cop- 
pertone™ tan.” One of the campaign’s clever “video news releases” 
shows scores of sexy, scantily-clad sun worshippers still over-expos- 
ing themselves to UV rays, while slathering themselves with sun oil. 
The VNR does not mention Schering-Plough, the funder of the PR 
campaign. 23 Ironically, Hill & Knowlton has also worked for corpo- 
rate clients who hired them to belittle the environmental risks of 
global climate change. 24 

Going the Extra Mile 

Some companies, such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and the Body Shop 
cosmetics, use progressive political rhetoric and claims of “social 
responsibility” as the centerpiece of their marketing campaigns. The 
Body Shop and Ben & Jerry’s are among the founders of an associ- 
ation calling itself “Business for Social Responsibility,” launched in 
1992 by 54 companies with progressive reputations including the 
Stride Rite Corporation and Levi Strauss. By 1995 it had grown to 
over 800 companies, including many whose “social responsibility” 
is dubious at best. In order to increase its funding and corporate 



clout, BSR has actively recruited major corporations as members, 
including FedEx, Home Depot, Viacom, The Gap, AT&T, the Clorox 
Company, Kidder Peabody & Co., Reebok, Starbucks Coffee Co., 
Polaroid Corporation, Honeywell, Time-Wamer, Taco Bell — and 
Monsanto. 25 

According to Craig Cox, former editor of Business Ethics maga- 
zine, Monsanto claims to have cut its toxic air emissions substan- 
tially, and is attempting to adopt other socially responsible business 
practices advocated by BSR. 26 However, these improvements in Mon- 
santo’s production process don’t change the fact that the company’s 
most profitable products include dangerous pesticides, artificial food 
additives, and risky bioengineered products. Monsanto’s member- 
ship in BSR underscores a fundamental dilemma: How does the 
movement for socially responsible business define “social responsibil- 
ity"? If Monsanto belongs in the club, why not “socially responsible” 
nuclear arms dealers? Can the tobacco industry join? 

This dilemma forced the BSR board of directors to define its policy 
on eligibility for membership. After discussion, the board decided it 
would be counter-productive to impose specific standards of social 
responsibility on members. According to BSR President Bob Dunn, the 
board adopted an “all inclusive membership policy so long as compa- 
nies demonstrate that they understand our mission, understand the 
principles of the organization and they wish to be a member because 
of their own interest in improving their policies and practices.’’ 27 

The bottom line is that BSR’s membership now includes some of 
the most environmentally destructive corporations on the planet, and 
more are sure to join. Some of the companies that have joined BSR 
are also financially supporting corporate front groups and business 
associations lobbying to weaken important environmental, consumer 
protection and civil rights laws, and funding right-wing advocacy 
groups set up to spread the message that environmental protection 
is incompatible with a healthy economy. 

BSR’s value as a vehicle for social change is further limited by the 
organization’s decision not to take positions on specific legislation. 
This political neutrality stands in noticeable contrast to the right-wing 
activism of other corporate-sponsored associations such as the US 
Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, which are lead- 
ing the charge to undermine even the mildest efforts to challenge 
the political power of big corporations. 

BSR compensates for its limited commitment to social change with 
a seemingly unlimited devotion to glowing rhetoric. “For the last 10 

Divide and Conquer 


years, it’s been a very' Pollyanna-ish type of movement,” Cox admits. 28 
Speaking to a 1994 meeting of the Public Relations Society of Amer- 
ica, BSR founder Michael Levett said the organization’s goal is to 
“benefit our companies, employees, environment and communities,” 
and “demonstrate the growing link between corporate responsibil- 
ity and corporate prosperity.” 29 A similar upbeat spirit pervaded BSR’s 
1994 annual conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Titled Beyond 
the Bottom Line: Putting Social Responsibility to Work for your Busi- 
ness and the World, the conference featured cheerleading about the 
power of the private sector to build “markets and demand for socially 
responsible business and . . . broad public support for . . . environ- 
mental and energy-related efforts.” It featured an appearance via 
satellite of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. PR workshops 
included “Communicating Your Socially Responsible Message with 
Integrity” and “Negative Press: Best Practices, Worst Nightmares.” 

Many PR firms have joined BSR including Cone/Coughlin Com- 
munications, DDB Needham, the Delahaye Group, the Kamber 
Group, and Ketchum Communications. 30 BSR’s goals, stated in its 
literature, include “connecting member companies with the press, 
and developing a higher level of visibility for our members’ efforts.” 
BSR thus enables its member companies to build an image of social 
responsibility, and to persuade consumers that buying their prod- 
ucts will contribute to building a better world. But even leaders 
within the BSR movement like Ben & Jerry's ice cream have found 
it easier to improve their image than it is to reconcile social respon- 
sibility with profitability. 

“In 1994, Ben & Jerry’s did its first social audit,” said Craig Cox. 
“Paul Hawken looked at the company’s operations and internal prac- 
tices versus marketing. The result was fairly sobering for folks at 
Ben & Jerry’s. Major media proclaimed that Ben & Jerry’s wasn’t as 
pure as they had marketed themselves to be or as consumers had 
believed them to be. . . . Ben & Jerry’s didn’t purposefully green- 
wash, but there was a misleading public perception which they 
helped to create.” 31 

The gap between words and deeds actually became a major scan- 
dal for the Body Shop, a cosmetics company which is so outspoken 
in its progressive rhetoric that owner Anita Roddick has been dubbed 
the “Mother Theresa of capitalism." In a cassette version of her auto- 
biography titled Body and Soul: Profits with Principles, Roddick laid 
out her personal manifesto: “I hate the beauty business. It’s an $80 
billion a year industry that sells unattainable dreams. It lies, it cheats, 



it exploits women and makes them unhappy. ... It wastes the time, 
energy and resources of consumers, workers and of the earth itself. 
All of that in order to sell what amounts to packaging for exorbitant 
prices. To me the whole notion of making beauty into a business is 
profoundly disturbing.” By contrast, Roddick claimed, “We simply 
and honestly sell wholesome products that women want. We sell 
them at reasonable prices without exploiting anyone, without hurt- 
ing animals, without hurting the earth. We do it without lying, cheat- 
ing and without even advertising.” 32 

In place of traditional paid advertising, Roddick mastered the 
public relations art of obtaining "free publicity” for her company by 
linking herself to a variety of progressive causes. Reporters flocked 
to cover the Body Shop’s use of “natural” ingredients in its products, 
opposition to animal testing and support for organizations such as 
Amnesty International and Greenpeace. To highlight its concern for 
indigenous cultures in die Third World, the Body Shop publicized 
its “Trade Not Aid” program, which claimed to support indigenous 
groups by buying ingredients for its cosmetics from them. 

“It was a great two-for-one sale: buy a Body Shop lotion and get 
social idealism for free,” 33 said journalist Jon Entine. In 1994, how- 
ever, Entine began a series of investigative reports and discovered 
that only a miniscule fraction of the Body Shop’s ingredients come 
from Trade Not Aid. Entine also discovered that the company: 

• used many outdated, off-the-shelf product formulas filled with non- 
renewable petrochemicals; 

• used animal-tested ingredients; and 

• had a history of quality control problems, including selling prod- 
ucts that were contaminated and contained formaldehyde. 

To begin his research, Entine said, “The very first thing I did was 
contact the Body Shop’s PR department in New York. They were not 
used to people asking real questions. They were quite shocked when 
I asked if there was some kind of outside auditing procedure that 
verified their claims; they looked at me like I was a man from Mars. 
They promised they'd send me many, many documents to verify their 
claims. Instead within the next two or three weeks I received libel 
threats from their lawyers in New York and London. Over the next 
three weeks while I was at ABC, every three or four days they came 
up with a new set of letters. They’d make these accusations but they 
never would attach a name to them. I had never been treated that 
way by any subject of a story before. They would react with this 

Divide and Conquer 


incredible anger. It was all part of their orchestrated theatrics. Anyone 
who cared about social responsibility and took the issues of hon- 
esty and integrity seriously was threatened. Anyone who questioned 
the Body Shop in a serious way was subjected to threats.” 54 

To combat Entine’s stop - , which appeared in Business Ethics mag- 
azine, the Body Shop turned to their PR guru, Frank Mankiewicz of 
Hill & Knowlton. A former president of National Public Radio, 
Mankiewicz assailed his former NPR colleagues for running a piece 
critical of the Body Shop. NPR acquiesced by removing the original 
NPR reporter and editor from the story. 35 

The fallout over the Body Shop also prompted Ben Cohen — the 
“Ben” of Ben & Jerry’s — to resign from the advisory board of Busi- 
ness Ethics magazine in protest against the publication of Entine’s 
expose. “Ben’s response was extremely disappointing and made me 
wonder where his heart is really at,” said magazine editor Craig Cox. 
“A full week before our story was distributed to anyone, he sent us 
a letter demanding that we pull the story. In the letter he said that 
the story was a bundle of lies. He had never seen the story. Ben’s 
response was a horrible overreaction that said to me that he had 
more allegiance to Anita Roddick than he had to this movement’s 
state. . . . The thing about Ben was that when the article went to 
print he knew that Jon Entine was investigating Ben & Jerry’s about 
their Trade Not Aid stuff. He knew that his company may be next 
on the front line. He knew that this story was going to raise funda- 
mental questions about socially responsible business and that his 
company would be scrutinized more than ever before.” 36 

In addition, Cox charged that Hill & Knowlton used another firm 
as an intermediary to obtain the mailing list of Business Ethics 
subscribers so the Body Shop could send them a ten-page letter 
attacking Entine’s article. “Apparently a company named Hoffman 
and Associates called our list broker and said they wanted to rent the 
list to do a mailing of a nonprofit catalog,” Cox said. “Apparently 
Hoffman and Associates gave the list to the Body Shop. The point 
that has to be made about various attempts to refute the story is 
that in more than 20 pages they wrote to our subscribers and edi- 
torial board, the Body Shop was not able to refute one statement of 
fact. . . . We are a five-member staff and we’re having to respond 
to a PR machine, Hill & Knowlton, that has more resources than any 
other PR machine in the world. Hill & Knowlton is the best known 
and most powerful PR firm in the US and they are hitting us with 
everything they’ve got.” 37 



According to Entine, the story of the Body Shop’s rise and fall as 
an icon of social responsibility teaches an important lesson for citi- 
zens: “The Body Shop is a corporation widt the same privileges and 
power in our society as all others. Like other corporations it makes 
products that are unsustainable, encourages consumption, uses non- 
renewable materials, hires giant PR and law firms, and exaggerates 
its environmental policies. If we are to become a sustainable society, 
it is crucial that we have institutions, whether they be corporations 
or not, that are truly sustainable. The Body Shop has deceived the 
public by trying to make us think that they are a lot further down 
the road to sustainability than they really are. We should recognize 
and encourage corporations that are moving in the right direction; 
but no longer should the public lionize the Body Shop and others 
who claim to be something they are not.” 38 

In fact, warns author Paul Hawken, overhyped claims of “social 
responsibility” create dangerous illusions that may prevent society 
from recognizing the magnitude of the dangers it faces and moving 
in the direction of mte sustainability. “If every company on the planet 
were to adopt the best environmental practices of the ‘leading’ com- 
panies — say, Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia, or 3M — the world would still 
be moving toward sure degradation and collapse,” Hawken writes 
in The Ecology of Commerce. A Declaration of Sustainability. “So if 
a tiny fraction of the world's most intelligent managers cannot model 
a sustainable world, then environmentalism as currently practiced 
by business today, laudable as it may be, is only a pan of an over- 
all solution. Rather than a management problem, we have a design 
problem, a flaw that ains through all business.” 39 


PoisoisiNq tIhe Grassroots 

The people, I say, are the only competent judges of their own welfare. 

The American Revolution viewed "the people” as the sole legiti- 
mate source of all government power. Grassroots empowerment was 
both the means and the end of America’s successful rebellion against 
King George’s colonial empire. It reflected a fundamental shift in 
thinking. Instead of subjecting the common people to the “God-given 
authority" of the British monarchy, the Declaration of Independence 
announced a visionary new doctrine, stating boldly and clearly that 
the people have the right to “alter or to abolish” any government 
that does not obey their wishes. 

At the time of the revolution, neighbors and townfolk participated 
in grassroots decision-making, sharing their opinions with each other 
direcdy and through a rich environment of communications foaims 
that included public meetings, political debates, pamphlets like Tom 
Paine’s Common Sense, posted “broadsides” and newspapers. 
Democracy was also strengthened by America’s good fortune in 
avoiding the huge gap between rich and poor that existed in Europe. 
“The truth is,” wrote Benjamin Franklin, “that though there are in 
the United States few people so miserable as the poor of Europe, 
there are also very few that in Europe would be called rich; it is 
rather a general happy mediocrity that prevails." 1 

Unfortunately, America has changed a lot since Ben Franklin’s day. 
In April 1995, the New York Times reported that “the United States 
has become the most economically stratified of industrial nations. 
. . . The wealthiest 1 percent of American households — with net 
worth of a least $2.3 million each — owns nearly 40 percent of the 




nation’s wealth." And “the top 20 percent of Americans . . . have 
more than 80 percent of the country's wealth, a figure higher than 
in other industrial nations.” 2 

The old joke about the “golden rule” says that “whoever has the 
gold makes the rules,” and with the United States entering the 21st 
century as the most business-dominated nation in the world, it is 
increasingly clear that social inequality leads naturally to a widen- 
ing gap between the people and their government. The grassroots 
democracy that inspired our revolutionary forebears has given way 
to political elitism, corruption and influence peddling. 

In President Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union Address, he alluded 
to the citizenry’s alienation from government: “Three times as many 
lobbyists are in the streets and corridors of Washington as were here 
20 years ago. The American people look at their capital and they 
see a city where the well-connected and the well-protected can work 
the system, but the interest of ordinary citizens are often left out.” 
Today even the loudest advocates of big business, such as Public 
Affairs Council President Ray Hoewing, publicly admit the obvious: 
“There is rising evidence of a system that favors the rich, the famous 
and the entrenched. . . . Does anyone seriously believe that it is pure 
coincidence that 27 US Senators are millionaires?" 3 

The business class dominates government through its ability to 
fund political campaigns, purchase high priced lobbyists and reward 
former officials with lucrative jobs. Meanwhile, the working-class 
majority of the American people has felt its economic and political 
power diminish or disappear. It has become necessary to work 
longer and harder to pay bills and earn a living. People have less 
free time for community involvement and grassroots citizen action. 
Many of the social institutions that should be the bulwark of grass- 
roots democracy — stable neighborhoods, vigorous unions, inde- 
pendently-owned small farms and businesses — are rapidly 
disappearing. Fewer than half of eligible Americans even bother to 
vote, and those who do vote have little faith that good will come of 
it, telling pollsters they are often voting for the “lesser of two evils.” 
Both major parties have become wholly dependent upon the same 
corporate dollars to pay a new professional class of PR consultants, 
marketers and social scientists who manage and promote causes and 
candidates in essentially the same manner that advertising campaigns 
sell cars, fashions, drugs and other wares. 

Ironically, the dominance of PR in the political process has created 
a massive image problem for the politicians who have come to rely 

Poisoning the Grassmots 


upon its serv ices. In fact, politicians are held in such low esteem that 
they often build their election campaigns around the pretense 
that they are anything hut “professional politicians.” Campaign con- 
sultants tell their candidates that the best way to join the Washing- 
ton establishment today is to tell voters that they hate Washington. 
This tactic is like a drug that has to be administered in stronger and 
stronger doses. Although it is effective at winning elections for indi- 
vidual politicians, it further feeds the disdain that citizens feel toward 
the system. Cynicism, alienation and disappointment have come to 
typify attitudes toward government, forcing members of the Wash- 
ington establishment into increasingly hypocritical self-denials in 
order to retain their attachment to power. 

This degraded political environment has created a rich bed of busi- 
ness opportunity for the public relations industry. As citizens remove 
themselves in disgust from the political process, the PR industry is 
moving in to take their place, turning the definition of “grassroots 
politics” upside dowm by using rapidly-evolving high-tech data and 
communications systems to custom-design "grassroots citizen move- 
ments” that serve the interests of their elite clients. Lloyd Bentsen, 
himself a long-time Washington and Wall Street insider, is credited 
with coining the term “astroturf lobbying” to describe the synthetic 
grassroots movements that now can be manufactured for a fee by 
companies like Hill & Knowlton, Direct Impact, Optima Direct, 
National Grassroots & Communications, Beckel Cowan, Burson- 
Marsteller, Davies Communications or Bonner & Associates. Cam- 
paigns & Elections magazine defines “astroturf’ as a “grassroots 
program that involves the instant manufacturing of public support 
for a point of view in which either uninformed activists are recruited 
or means of deception are used to recruit them.” 'Journalist William 
Greider has coined his own term to describe corporate grassroots 
organizing. He calls it “democracy for hire .” 5 

“Astroturf” organizing is corporate grassroots at its most deceit- 
ful. Even PR practitioners use the term to deride their competitors’ 
work, promising that their own grassroots programs are more pro- 
fessional and legitimate. “Real Grass Roots — Not Astroturf’, screams 
a full-page ad on the back cover of Campaigns & Elections maga- 
zine, touting the sei vices of a firm called National Grassroots & Com- 
munications . 6 But “real” in PR terms has a very different definition 
than its common meaning in the “real world.” PR professionals use 
the term “real grass roots” to refer to orchestrated mass campaigns 
that are so well-designed that they look real. 



“Total Community Support” 

In the old days, lobbyists relied on the “three Bs" — booze, blondes 
and bribes — to induce politicians to vote their way on the issues. 
These venerable persuaders have never been abandoned, but the 
advance of modern science has developed other methods which are 
more subtle and often more effective. The public relations industry' 
now possesses something approaching a “unified field theory" of the 
methodology for motivating elected officials. 

In the early 1970s, writes author Susan Trento, Hill & Knowlton’s 
Washington office conducted a survey on Capitol Hill to determine 
the most effective approaches for lobbying. “They learned, in order 
of priority, that old friends, businessmen from the state or congres- 
sional district, and ordinary constituents make the biggest impact. 
Visits are better than letters. Handwritten or personalized letters are 
better than form letters or preprinted postcards. Letters are better than 
telephone calls.” 7 

Guided by this analysis, Hill & Knowlton executive Robert Keith 
Gray began systematically hiring friends and family of prominent 
Washington politicos. This technique, which is now widely used by 
industry, was dubbed “grasstops communications” by PR executive 
Matt Reese, one of the technique’s pioneering practitioners in the 
early 1980s. Until his retirement in 1987, Reese ran Reese Commu- 
nications Companies, serving clients such as AT&T, Philip Morris, 
McDonnell Douglas and United Airlines. 8 Reese touted “grasstops 
communications” as “the ultimate in corporate legislative leverage 
. . . a bold, unique method of cutting through the special interest 
tangle to make an industry’s message heard . . . and make the legis- 
lator sit up and listen.’’ 9 

To target an individual legislator, Reese Communications said it 
begins by hiring a “District Liaison” from the ranks of the legislator’s 
“influential friends and leading business associates.” In addition to 
having “a close personal relationship with the legislator and his/her 
staff . . . this person should also be actively involved in the com- 
munity and have some media contact.” Once hired, the District Liai- 
son works to personally lobby the legislator, and helps organize “a 
powerful business roundtable whose members are identified and 
recruited by the District Liaison. This roundtable consists of key busi- 
ness and community leaders . . . and friends and supporters of the 
legislator. ... In other words, we create a ‘kitchen cabinet.’ . . . These 
are not just any leaders — but specifically those individuals who are 
well-connected to the legislative target, are receptive to the clients’ 

Poisoning the Grassmots 


goals and who may have similar legislative concerns in their own 
business or industry.” Like the District Liaison, the roundtable mem- 
bers are recruited from the “legislator’s business associates, major 
political contributors and social contacts.” Through “repetitive, per- 
suasive contact by friends, acquaintances and influential members 
of the legislator’s home district,” the District Liaison and members 
of the roundtable create an artificial bubble of peer influence sur- 
rounding the targeted politician, so that “legislators will get the feel 
of total community support for an issue.” 10 

Organizing From the Bottom Up 

Politicians rely like anyone else on family and friends for advice and 
support, and they rely on people with money to fund their cam- 
paigns. Ultimately, however, they also need votes from the com- 
munity at large to win election and re-election. Lobbyists therefore 
need to convince politicians that “the masses” are desperately con- 
cerned about the issue they want pressed. By the 1980s, PR firms 
like Hill & Knowlton were developing techniques not only for tar- 
geting legislators but also for serving up their constituents. Since then 
the business of organizing grassroots support for pro-business posi- 
tions has become a half-billion-dollar-a-year PR subspecialty — “one 
of the hottest trends in politics today,” according to former state legis- 
lator Ron Faucheux, now the editor of Campaigns & Elections mag- 
azine. “In the modem world, few major issues are merely lobbied 
anymore,” Faucheux writes. “Most of them are now managed, using 
a triad of public relations, grassroots mobilization and lobbyists.” 11 
Jack Bonner, one of the pioneers in the field of corporate grass- 
roots organizing, is profiled in William Greider’s important 1992 
book, Who Will Tell the People. Greider’s book issued a blunt, elo- 
quent warning: “American democracy is in much deeper trouble than 
most people wish to acknowledge. Behind the reassuring facade, 
the regular election contests and so forth, the substantive meaning 
of self-government has been hollowed out. What exists behind the 
formal shell is a systemic breakdown of the shared civic values we 
call democracy. . . . The representative system has undergone a 
grotesque distortion of its original purpose.” 12 

Greider described Jack Bonner’s “grassroots organizing” shop, 
located on one of Washington’s main boulevards, as a “boiler room” 
operation with “300 phone lines and a sophisticated computer system, 
resembling the phone banks employed in election campaigns. Artic- 
ulate young people sit in little booths every day, dialing around 



America on a variety of public issues, searching for ‘white hat' citi- 
zens who can be persuaded to endorse the political objectives of 
Mobil Oil, Dow Chemical, Citicorp, Ohio Bell, Miller Brewing, US 
Tobacco, the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Pharmaceu- 
tical Manufacturers Association and dozens of other clients. This kind 
of political recruiting is expensive but not difficult. . . . Imagine 
Bonner’s technique multiplied and elaborated in different ways across 
hundreds of public issues and you may begin to envision the girth 
of this industry. . . . This is democracy and it costs a fortune.” 13 

Jack Bonner, of course, takes issue with Greider’s negative opin- 
ion of his trade. “I see it as the triumph of democracy,” Bonner told 
a writer for the the Washington Post. “In a democracy, the more 
groups taking their message to the people outside the Beltway, and 
the more people taking their message to Congress, the better off the 
system is." 14 

What puts the lie to Bonner’s claim is that his clients are not 
“people,” but corporations and business trade associations buying 
the appearance of public support and citizen advocacy. Democracy 
is based on the principle of “one person, one vote.” Bonner relies 
instead on the principle of “one dollar, one vote,” mobilizing 
resources that would break the budget of even the best-funded envi- 
ronmental or consumer organization. His services “do not come 
cheap,” noted the New York Times in 1993- “A campaign aimed at a 
handful of lawmakers on a subcommittee could cost in the tens of 
thousands of dollars, but one trade association in an uphill fight on 
the Senate floor paid $3 million for a single month’s work.” 15 As 
Greider points out, “Only those with a strong, immediate financial 
stake in the political outcomes can afford to invest this kind of money 
in manipulating the governing decisions. Most Americans have nei- 
ther the personal ability nor wherewithal to compete on this field.” 16 

Every Move You Make 

The business of grassroots campaigning begins with opinion polling, 
one of the public relations industry’s staple technologies. The science 
of reliable polling was first developed in the 1930s for businesses 
alarmed by the implications of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s landslide elec- 
tion victory, which reflected widespread Depression-era disen- 
chantment with capitalism. Beginning in 1937, the Psychological 
Corporation, a business established by 20 “leading psychologists,” 
began systematic and continuous monitoring of public opinion on 
questions of political importance to business. At first, polls were used 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


to gauge the mood of “the public at large,” but progressive refine- 
ments have enabled pollsters to zero in on the opinions of narrower 
and narrower segments of the population. 

In the 1950s, notes Canadian author Joyce Nelson, business 
adapted the techniques of military “wargaming,” which uses com- 
puter technology to am complex simulations of battle, giving numer- 
ical weights to factors like population densities, environmental 
conditions, and weapon deployments to create detailed projections 
of probable outcomes. Using similar computer models, companies 
were able to enter their own sets of numbers, representing variables 
such as demographic factors, economic conditions and polling data 
to generate marketing scenarios. 17 

At the same time that opinion polling was providing an ever-more- 
detailed map of the public’s collective psyche, computer databases 
were also evolving in sophistication and ability to track the thoughts 
and preferences of individuals. The junk mail that arrives at every 
home every day is generated by “direct marketing,” a science that 
enables organizations to target their pitches directly to the individ- 
uals whose past history shows that they are most likely to respond, 
using computerized lists that track people according to characteris- 
tics such as membership in organizations ranging from the ACLU to 
the Christian Coalition; income; recent change in address; magazine 
subscriptions; hobbies; attitudes toward crime; ethnic background; 
buying habits; and religion, to name just a few. Through computer- 
ized “merge/purge” techniques, companies can produce hybrid 
lists — for example, of white Democrat male gun owners who have 
recently moved, or of upper-income NOW members who subscribe 
to the National Review. By combining this capability with the “psy- 
chographic” maps generated by opinion polling, corporations can 
draw a remarkably detailed portrait of you, using the information 
they do have to make calculated guesses about your likely attitude 
on gun control, taxes, nuclear power or any other issue. According 
to PR executive Robert L. Dilenschneider, Hill & Knowlton subsidiary 
Reese Communications used this technique a few years ago to help 
AT&T identify “1.2 million people who actually wrote their senators 
to raise their phone bills. It was all a question of correlating char- 
acteristics, values, and geography so that a targeted direct-action cam- 
paign could be waged.” 18 

“This isn’t rocket science; in fact, it’s ‘Direct Marketing 101,' ” says 
Mike Malik, vice-president of Optima Direct, which offers “issue com- 
munications” and “grassroots mobilizations” to corporate clients. “We 



do junk mail and junk phone calls. Everybody hates that stuff but it 
works. . . . Our two major clients are Philip Moms and the National 
Rifle Association. . . . You can learn from those two organizations and 
what they do — they’re veiy efficient, very effective at grassroots.” 19 
Like most of today’s political wizards, Malik is young but exper- 
ienced, confident and well compensated. Raised in Iowa, he grad- 
uated from Columbia University with a political science degree in 
1985, then returned for his masters in business administration in 1991- 
Malik spent over seven years with Philip Morris developing a grass- 
roots tobacco lobby that he proudly calls “one of the best citizen 
action grassroots programs in the nation today.” In December 1994, 
he explained how it works at a corporate seminar in Chicago titled 
“Shaping Public Opinion: If You Don’t Do It, Somebody Else Will.” 
“Mail is what you do when you have more time,” Malik said. “The 
mass of Americans don’t care. So you want to find the people who 
do care, and then you want to find the people who will take action 
on your side of the issue. You’ve got to communicate to them in 
their manner. It’s really easy to get lists of people who might be 
effected by your issue. . . . Build a data base today that will track 
mail response. . . . Follow it up with a phone call, find out where 
they stand, mark it down in a database so you can target who you 
want to call again right before a vote.” 

When an issue is actually coming up for a vote, Malik turns to 
his phone banks: “Phones are for speed. Another advantage of 
phones is that it's really flexible. You test mail, get results in three 
weeks, and make adjustments. With phones you’re on the phones 
today, you analyze your results, you change your script and tiy a 
new thing tomorrow. In a three-day program you can make four or 
five different changes, find out what’s really working, what messages 
really motivate people, and improve your response rates.” 

Telephones can also be used very effectively to deluge a targeted 
legislator with constituent phone calls, using “patch-through,” a con- 
tact technique in which a phone bank for a lobbying organization 
gets one of its supporters on the line and directly connects him or 
her to the targeted public official to deliver a personal message. 
Optima Direct has communications switches specially designed for 
this purpose. Malik explains: “I’m talking to you, and I say, ‘Hey, 
are you with me on the issue?’ and we have a little conversation. 
You say, ‘Yeah, I’ll talk to my legislator.’ I say, ‘Great, I’ll connect 
you now.’ You need a shop that has a switch that you can push 
a button and they are connected, and they are off, and your live 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


operator is on the outbound talking to the next person. That’s 
advanced switches, people.” 

“There are bad patch-through jobs out there,” Malik warned, 
sounding like the used car salesman he so much resembles. Optima 
Direct, he says, does quality work — patch-through jobs so sophisti- 
cated they look like spontaneous manifestations of popular senti- 
ment. “Space the calls out throughout the day — it’s got to look real,” 
he advises. “Talk to your lobbyists and find out what the call flow 
patterns are. . . . Make it look as real as possible.” 20 

Onward Christian Soldiers 

High-tech, well-funded “grassroots organizing” is the basis for the 
remarkable growth of the Christian Coalition, led by boyish-looking 
executive director Ralph Reed. The Christian Coalition is largely 
responsible for the swelling tide of far-right politics in recent US elec- 
tions, representing an ungodly alliance of right-wing Christians and 
corporate America using a high-tech version of the direct action 
organizing tactics pioneered in the 1960s by the New Left. Former 
felon Oliver North, who narrowly missed his bid to become a US 
senator from Virginia, was one of the rare candidates supported by 
the right-wing Christian Coalition who failed to win office in 1994, 
despite massive financing, energetic, mobilized Christian troops, and 
an angry message that spoke to the bitter mood of American voters. 

Reed has become the single most important pro-business activist 
on the political Right, making him a favorite speaker at conferences 
sponsored by the Public Affairs Council, the PR industry’s leading 
political association. In February 1994, he joined PR consultants 
Michael Dunn, Neal Cohen and other speakers at an expensive and 
exclusive conference held in Sarasota, Florida. “You’re beginning to 
see the emergence of genuine grassroots citizen-based movements 
that I think are going to be the future of American politics in the 
'90s and into the next century,” Reed told the assembled public rela- 
tions executives from America’s biggest companies. He pointed out 
that both political parties are “in irreversible, precipitous decline.” 21 

The Christian Coalition is filling that void, not with a party, but 
with what Reed calls “a civic league.” By the millennium, the Chris- 
tian Coalition plans to establish 3,300 county chapters and 175,000 
precinct organizations, one for each county and precinct in the 
United States. Founded in 1990, it already has more than 1.5 million 
members and 1,200 chapters that are supported by an annual bud- 
get of $20 million. “The size of our annual budget and the size of 



our mailing list will [soon] exceed that of the Republican Party,” Reed 
predicted. The Coalition plans to build that base by reaching out to 
two demographic groups: pro-life Catholics and the 24 percent of 
the electorate who define themselves as bom-again evangelicals. 

The Coalition’s success is based partly on technological wizardry. 
The group’s Chesapeake, VA, headquarters are equipped with a 
phone system capable of generating 100,000 calls in a single week- 
end. Aided by a sophisticated computer system, the Coalition is 
obtaining the public voting records from every precinct in the United 
States — records that often include a history of which elections a voter 
has participated in and, if they voted in a primary, whether they 
picked a Democratic or Republican ballot. 

The Coalition provides each of its 1,200 chapters with the com- 
puterized voter rolls for their county. Using those lists the chapters 
build what Reed calls “a voter ID file.” Volunteers and hired work- 
ers (who are paid $5 per hour and must meet a quota) call each 
voter in the county and ask three questions. First, voters are asked 
whether or not they are in favor of raising taxes, a question that iden- 
tifies economic conservatives. Next they are asked about abortion — 
this identifies who is pro-life or pro-choice. Third, voters are asked 
what is the most important issue facing their community, and that 
response is coded as belonging to one of 43 identified hot-button 
issues, such as crime, homosexuality and humanism. 

Reed explained that the Coalition’s success is based on the group’s 
realization that its potential supporters are not a monolithic voting 
bloc. For example, many evangelicals will not respond to an anti- 
abortion argument, but can be reached with an anti-tax message. 
Armed with these ideological IDs on each voter, Christian Coalition- 
backed candidates can generate elaborate direct-mail campaign 
appeals. “There is no replacement for knowing what somebody cares 
about,” said Reed. 

As an example, Reed told tire assembled PR executives how the 
Christian Coalition had success in targeting Sonny Stallings, an up- 
and-coming Democratic state legislator from Virginia Beach. “In 1991 
there was a state senator [Stallings] that we did not care for, the busi- 
ness community did not care for and the National Rifle Association 
did not care for. . . . [He] was positioning himself to run for attor- 
ney general in Virginia two years hence,” said Reed. “None of us 
together could afford to take the chance that he might be elected 
because in Virginia attorney general is a nice stepping stone to gov- 
ernor. So we figured it would be a lot cheaper to move him back 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


to his law practice in a state senate race than it would be to do it in 
a statewide race.” 

So Reed and company, working stealthily, nipped Stallings’ polit- 
ical ambitions in the bud and helped a Christian Republican, Ken 
Stolle, capture his seat. First, the Coalition surveyed the electorate 
and discovered that the No. 1 issue concerning district voters was 
the city's inadequate water supply. Second, the Coalition helped 
Stolle, who “represented the more conservative pro-family and pro- 
business viewpoint,” send out personalized letters to potential voters. 

The letters arrived the Saturday before the election. To those who 
had voiced concern about water, Stolle declared himself to be the 
“water candidate.” To those voters who said crime was the most 
important issue, Stolle was packaged as the “crime candidate,” and 
so on. Consequently the Coalition, by picking and then exploiting 
the right issues, was able to elect Stolle, a right-thinking Republican, 
to a seat that Democrats had held since Reconstruction. 

Reed also offers his Coalition's services to help corporations mobi- 
lize citizens on issues that go beyond the Christian Coalition's litany 
of evils: abortion, condoms and secularism. He acknowledged that 
many of the PR executives gathered in Sarasota didn’t share his views 
on these subjects. They could agree to disagree, but there were other 
areas of common ground, such as environmental issues, especially 
“if a corporation is involved in getting a lot of harassment” from 
activists. The Christian Coalition also did its part to defeat Clinton’s 
1994 health care reform proposal. Reed told of plans to “drop into 
60,000 evangelical churches 32 million postcards that have a picture 
of a 4-year-old child getting a shot.” The caption under the picture 
read, “Don’t let a government bureaucrat in this picture.” 22 

Democratic Centralism 

Like the Christian Coalition, corporate grassroots strategies are 
designed to mobilize the masses in political campaigns while keep- 
ing effective control of actual political debates concentrated in the 
hands of a select few. Speaking at the same conference as Reed, 
Neal Cohen, the director of political support services at APCO Asso- 
ciates in Washington, explained the relationship between “broad- 
based membership” and tightly centralized decision-making: 
“Broad-based membership is: What does the public see? What do 
the legislators see? Decision-making is: a core group of three or so 
people who have similar interests and who are going to get the job 
done and not veer off.” 23 


Another speaker, Michael Dunn of the Washington-based PR firm 
Michael E. Dunn and Associates, agreed: “The purpose of the grass- 
roots program is not to get more Americans involved in the politi- 
cal system,” Dunn explained. “The purpose of a grassroots program 
is one purpose period, and that is to influence legislative policy. . . . 
The reality is you are going to be involved in this political process 
whether you want to or not. The only real question is whether or 
not you are going to win. And if you do not have a grass-roots pro- 
gram your odds of winning have seriously diminished .” 24 

Fortunately, Dunn said, corporations can use the same technol- 
ogy as the Christian Coalition. First, companies must systematically 
build a political propaganda effort targeted at their employees, 
retirees, vendors and customers. The aim of this indoctrination is to 
make the majority of employees at each corporate outpost “sensi- 
tive to the impact government has on what they are trying to do and 
to realize they’ve got to play a role in that whole program.” To com- 
plement this broad-based indoctrination program, he urged compa- 
nies to set up a “key contact program” that recruits employees from 
each corporate outpost to develop “a personal relationship with the 
elected official to whom they are assigned. In order to have a qual- 
ity relationship that key contact has to basically be willing to inte- 
grate into that lawmaker’s political organization, and become part 
of their political campaign apparatus, be a part of the social circle 
of which that lawmaker is a part,” said Dunn, describing an in-house 
“grasstops” strategy. Employees are being told, in short, that to keep 
their jobs and rise within the company, they should become politi- 
cal operatives for the company, befriending candidates and becom- 
ing the grassroots eyes and ears for the corporation in local politics. 
Dunn even advocated putting this “key contact responsibility into a 
job description.” 

Dunn didn’t discuss, of course, how tire company should deal 
with employees who fail to get with the “program.” But such a pos- 
sibility touches on issues of political liberties and the integrity of 
democratic instiaitions. Dunn’s system of "grassroots mobilization” 
is in fact a top-down command system, under which employees are 
expected to vote and agitate not for what they as free citizens con- 
sider politically good or desirable but for the political interests of the 
company that employs them. Dunn sees these “grassroots agents” 
as corporate soldiers, whose loyalty is essential for victory in today’s 
competitive environment. “This is a battle, folks. There is a German 
general who once said politics is war without bullets. And if you 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


think you are not in a war right now, you have not been in the 
trenches yet. This is a war,” he thundered. “Ultimately, every orga- 
nization in America has to move to a broad-based program. Until 
we get all of our people involved in understanding, we are going 
to continually lose die political marketplace.” 25 

Stick It Up Your Back Yard 

Grassroots organizing is industry’s weapon of choice against 
“NIMBY” or “Not In My Back Yard” movements — local community 
groups that organize to stop their neighborhood from hosting a toxic 
waste dump, porno bookstore or other unwanted invader. NIMBYs 
are the “white blood cells” of the democratic body politic — small, 
quickly mobilized, and effective at killing off foreign intrusions. Like 
white blood cells, they sometimes attack harmless or even benefi- 
cial newcomers, but they are authentic and deeply-felt expressions 
of democracy, reflecting the right of citizens to shape their own envi- 
ronment and destiny. 

John Davies helps neutralize these groups on behalf of corporate 
clients including Mobil Oil, Hyatt Hotels, Exxon, American Express 
and Pacific Gas & Electric. He describes himself as “one of America’s 
premier grassroots consultants,” and runs a full-color advertisement 
designed to strike terror into the heart of even the bravest CEO. It’s 
a photo of the enemy — literally a “little old white-haired lady,” hold- 
ing a hand-lettered sign that reads, “Not In My Backyard!” A caption 
imprinted over the photo says, “Don’t leave your future in her hands. 
Traditional lobbying is no longer enough. ... To outnumber your 
opponents, call Davies Communications.” 26 

Davies’ promotional material claims that “he can make a strate- 
gically planned program look like a spontaneous explosion of com- 
munity support. Davies has turned grassroots communications into 
an art form.” Speaking at a PR conference in December 1994, Davies 
said his clients “usually come to us when they really need a friend. 
A local community is going to shut down your business and you 
call up a public affairs firm and say, ‘Oh shit.’ Mark Twain said it 
best: ‘When you need a friend, it’s too late to make one.’ ” 27 

Davies manufactures friends for needy corporate clients by using 
mailing lists and computer databases to identify potential support- 
ers. He explained how his telemarketers turn passive supporters into 
what appear to be advocates concerned enough to pen a personal 
letter to a politician, newspaper or city commissioner: “We want to 
assist them with letter writing. We get them on the phone, and while 



Traditional lobbying is no longer enough. Today 
numbers count. To win in the hearing room, you 
must reach out to create grassroots support. 

To outnumber your opponents, call the leading 
grassroots public affairs communications specialists 





“The enemy” 
as seen in a 
message by the 
PR firm Davies 
This ad 
appeared in 
tile December/ 
January 1995 
issue of 
& Elections 
magazine, which 
was dedicated 
to die topic 
of corporate 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


we’re on the phone we say, ‘Will you write a letter?’ ‘Sure.’ ‘Do you 
have time to write it?’ ‘Not really.’ ‘Could me write the letter for you? 
I could put you on the phone right now with someone who could 
help you write a letter. Just hold, we have a writer standing by.’ ” 
The call is then passed on to another Davies employee who creates 
what appears to be a personal letter to be sent to the appropriate 
public official. “If they're close by we hand-deliver it. We hand-write 
it out on ‘little kitty cat stationery’ if it’s a little old lady. If it’s a busi- 
ness we take it over to be photocopied on someone’s letterhead. 
[We] use different stamps, different envelopes. . . . Getting a pile of 
personalized letters that have a different look to them is what you 
want to strive for.” 28 

Pamela Whitney, the CEO of National Grassroots & Communica- 
tions, also specializes in fighting local community groups. “My com- 
pany basically works for major corporations and we do new market 
entries. . . . Wal-Mart is one of our clients. We take on the NIMBYs 
and environmentalists.” National Grassroots also assists “companies 
who want to do a better job of communicating to their employees 
because they want to remain union-free. They aren’t quite sure how 
to do it, so we go in and set that up.” 29 

Whitney began her political career as a “gopher” in Democratic 
Senator Ed Muskie’s press office in 1969, then graduated to travel- 
ing advance work for the Bamum & Bailey Circus, where she 
“learned the value of a visual. There’s nothing better than a guy walk- 
ing behind an elephant to make the evening TV news. It was great 
training for me.” In 1980 Whitney joined the nation’s second largest 
PR firm, “working for corporate America to defeat legislation that 
was pro-union. At the same time I was married to a member of Con- 
gress [Pennsylvania’s Peter Kostmayer] who was in the pocket of 
unions.” Notwithstanding the contradiction, Whitney campaigned 
aggressively for her husband, “shaking 27,000 hands in 41 days in 
1982 campaigning on the front lines. . . . Between that and my expe- 
rience with Mothers Against Drunk Driving I really learned the value 
of grassroots support.” 

National Grassroots specializes in “passing and defeating legisla- 
tion at both the federal and state level,” setting up its own local orga- 
nizations, using a network of professional grassroots organizers. “We 
believe very strongly in having what we term ‘ambassadors’ on the 
ground. One of the things we don 't like to do is hire a local PR firm. 

. . . They are not part of the community. We hire local ambassadors 
who know die community inside and out to be our advocates, and 



then we work with them. They report to us. They are on our pay- 
roll, but it’s for a very small amount of money.” 

Who are these on-the-cheap organizers-for-hire? “We have found 
that our best community ambassadors are women who have possi- 
bly been head of their local PTA; they are very active in their local 
community — or women who are retired and who have a lot of time 
on their hands. We find them to be the very best activists.” To super- 
vise these grassroots grannies, Whitney hires professionals who “have 
had field organizing experience” on electoral campaigns, operatives 
who “can drop in the middle of nowhere and in two weeks they 
have an organization set up and ready to go.” 

When outside organizers are sent in, they dress carefully to avoid 
looking like the high-priced, out-of-town hired guns that they really 
are. “It’s important not to look like a Washington lobbyist,” Whitney 
explained. “When I go to a zoning board meeting I wear absolutely 
no make-up, I comb my hair straight back in a ponytail, and I wear 
my kids’ old clothes. You don’t want to look like you’re someone 
from Washington, or someone from a corporation. . . . You want 
very much to fit in with the environment.” Wearing a baseball cap 
“is how you fit in, that’s how you’re one of them instead of some- 
body from the outside coming in. . . . People hate outsiders; it’s just 
human nature.” 30 

Not In Our Bottom Line 

The growing proliferation of phony grassroots groups prompted a 
May 1994 article titled “Public Interest Pretenders” in Consumer 
Reports magazine. “That group with the do-good name may not be 
what it seems,” warned the magazine. “There was a time when one 
usually could tell what an advocacy group stood for — and who stood 
behind it — simply by its name. Today, ‘councils,’ ‘coalitions,’ 
‘alliances,’ and groups with ‘citizens’ and ‘consumers’ in their names 
could as likely be fronts for corporations and trade associations as 
representatives of ‘citizens' or ‘consumers.’ These public interest pre- 
tenders work in so many ways — through advertisements, press 
releases, public testimony, bogus surveys, questionable public-opin- 
ion polls, and general disinformation — that it’s hard to figure out 
who’s who or what the group’s real agenda might be.” 31 

As an example, Consumer Reports pointed to the Workplace 
Health & Safety Council, which is actually “a lobbying group com- 
posed of employers, and it has opposed a number of regulations 
aimed at strengthening worker safeguards. Similarly, someone 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


looking at the logo of the National Wetlands Coalition, which fea- 
tures a duck flying over a marsh, would have no clue that the coali- 
tion is made up mainly of oil drillers, developers, and natural gas 
companies. . . . Today, inventing phony ‘citizens’ groups is an indus- 
try in its own right. . . . Public relations specialists have discovered 
countless ways to create at least the illusion of citizen involvement.” 

The auto and oil industries are also active in grassroots organiz- 
ing. Consumer Reports noted that the American Petroleum Institute 
retained the Beckel Cowan PR firm in 1989 to organize “Americans 
Against Unfair Gas Taxes, a national organization with over 15,000 
members” that helped kill a proposed hike in the federal gas tax. In 
Nevada, the auto industry created a front group called Nevadans for 
Fair Fuel Economy Standards to “impress Nevada Senator Richard 
Bryan.” A PR firm called the FMR Group worked “to find Nevadans 
who owned . . . gas guzzlers, and spread the word” that a law sup- 
ported by Bryan to foster greater gas efficiency “would make such 
vehicles unaffordable. FMR recruited 20 Nevada residents, put their 
names on the group’s letterhead, and sent letters to organizations 
and individuals, asking them to write Senator Bryan. . . . The letters 
to constituents didn’t mention the auto industry’s sponsorship.’’ 32 

Insurance companies are also mobilizing, according to Barbara 
Bey, the managing director of public affairs at the American Coun- 
cil of Life Insurance in Washington, a trade association of more than 
600 companies. Bey was also the Public Affairs Council’s 1995 chair- 
person. Bey told Impact, the Council’s monthly newsletter, how the 
American Council of Life Insurance is preparing for action. “Tech- 
nology is what allows us to do it and do it efficiently, and do it well,” 
Bey said. “We’re building an interactive database for grassroots use 
in explaining concerns to members, legislators and other stakeholders 
before these concerns escalate into issues. We are also developing 
a key contact program to expand and take the grassroots program 
to ‘the next step.’ ” 33 

There is just no substitute for grassroots campaigns, according to 
Eric Rennie, the director of public policy communication at the ITT- 
Hartford Insurance Group. Rennie told Impact: “In a top-down organ- 
ization such as ours, when the local general manager wants 
employees to sit down and write letters to their legislators, it's often 
done right there at work. The employees are given the paper, tire 
pens, the stamps and the envelopes. Afterwards, copies are made 
so we know what kind of response we have achieved. Because we 
don’t feel comfortable doing that with our customers, we don’t know 



what proportion of them actually responded or along what lines.” 
And that is where grassroots mobilization comes in. “These days,” 
Rennie continued, “corporate grassroots campaigns require that we 
knock on more and more doors, the doors of our customers, dis- 
tributors, suppliers, related industries and other members of our 
‘extended family.’ ’’ 3 ‘‘ 

Robert C. Kirkwood, the director of government affairs at 
Hewlett-Packard, is another true believer. He told Impact: “We had 
an epiphany ... in the NAFTA effort. For the first time, we went to 
a widespread grassroots program that involved employees through- 
out the country. My sense is that we will use that as a part of our 
regular arsenal. . . . The environmental movement will be upset, labor 
will be troubled. Everyone hasn’t tooled up yet, but they will.” 33 

Amputating Health Reform 

During the 1992 presidential campaign, opinion polls showed that 
voters were especially concerned by skyrocketing costs for health 
care. Candidate Bill Clinton talked frequently about his interest in a 
“managed competition” approach to health reform. In fact, observes 
James Fallows in the January 1995 issue of The Atlantic, demand for 
health reform was so strong that “through most of 1993 the Repub- 
licans believed that a health reform bill was inevitable, and they 
wanted to be on the winning side. [US Senator) Bob Dole said he 
was eager to work with the Administration and appeared at events 
side by side with Hillary Clinton to endorse universal coverage. 
Twenty-three Republicans said that universal coverage was a given 
in a new bill.” 36 

Critics have pointed to numerous flaws in the Clinton Administra- 
tion’s health care proposals. In a democratic system, however, flawed 
initial proposals are common, perhaps even inevitable. A healthy 
democratic process brings together people from differing perspec- 
tives to debate and revise plans until a consensus emerges. In the 
case of the Clinton health plan, however, astroturf tactics — funded 
primarily by the insurance and drug industries — managed to quash 
the debate in its entirety, crushing not only the Clinton plan but all 
proposed alternatives for reforming the US health care system. What 
had been the centerpiece of the Clinton administration’s domestic 
policy was relegated to the dustbin of political history. By 1995 the 
issue was not even on the political map. 

The first salvo in the campaign was fired in 1993, when the Clin- 
ton administration attacked high prices for prescription drugs and 

Poisoning the Grassroots 


hinted at the possibility of government-imposed price controls. In 
response, the pharmaceutical industry hired the Beckel Cowan PR 
firm, whose principals had managed the Mondale for President cam- 
paign. Beckel Cowan created an astroturf organization called “Rx 
Partners” and began deploying state and local organizers to, in the 
words of a company brochure, “generate and secure high-quality per- 
sonal letters from influential constituents to 35 targeted Members of 
Congress. Simultaneously, Beckel Cowan managed a targeted mail 
and phone campaign which produced personal letters, telegrams, 
and patch-through calls to the targeted Members' local and Wash- 
ington, DC, offices.” The firm claimed that the campaign generated 
“in excess of 50,000 congressional contacts” and “built an extensive 
network of supporters in 35 congressional districts and states.” 37 

Robert Hoopes, who also started his career working for liberal 
Democrats, was another key player in the PR campaign against health 
care reform. In 1986, Hoopes was a college freshman when he 
picked up a Time magazine, saw Michael Deaver on the cover, and 
decided, “I want to be a lobbyist, because this looks like a great job. 
You sit in the back of a limousine, you’re on the phone, you’ve got 
a view of the Capital, and get paid big bucks.” In pursuit of this 
dream, Hoopes went to work for liberal Democrats including Sen- 
ators Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd. In 1992 he worked for the 
Clinton/Gore campaign. In October 1993, he was named the first 
'grassroots coordinator/political education specialist’ for the the 
300,000-member Independent Insurance Agents of America (IIAA). 
According to Hoopes, the IIAA has made grassroots lobbying “the 
cornerstone of our public affairs agenda since 1987,” making it a fre- 
quently-cited model for lobbyists in other industries. 38 

“Health care was a very slow moving train,” Hoopes said. “We 
saw it coming in Clinton’s State of the Union address. We had time 
to gin up the grassroots, mail our letters, educate our membership, 
have town hall meetings; I could travel all over the country and get 
my members excited about it. When it came time for a vote we were 
ready.” According to Campaign & Elections magazine, the IIAA acti- 
vated “nearly 140,000” insurance agents during the health care 
debate, becoming what Hoopes describes as a new breed of Wash- 
ington lobbyists: “The new lobbyists, good lobbyists, wear unpressed 
pants, tacky name tags, and are in the Capitol to represent them- 
selves . . . 300,000 independent insurance agents across the country. 
Our [Washington] lobbyists have behind them an army of indepen- 
dent insurance agents from each state, and members of Congress 



understand what a lobbyist can do with the touch of a button to 
mobilize those people for or against them. This change is a direct 
result of technology.” 39 

The Coalition for Health Insurance Choices — an insurance indus- 
try front group — led the effort to kill health reform. The Coalition 
admitted that it received major funding from the National Federa- 
tion of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and the Health Insurance 
Association of America (HIAA), a trade group of insurance compa- 
nies. According to Consumer Reports, “The HIAA doesn’t just sup- 
port the coalition; it created it from scratch.” 40 

The Coalition's mastermind was Blair G. Childs, who has been 
organizing grassroots support for the insurance industry for a decade. 
From 1986-89 he orchestrated a media, grassroots and coalition- 
building campaign for the industry’s American Tort Reform Associ- 
ation. Then he moved to Aetna Life and Casualty where he instituted 
one of the most sophisticated corporate grassroots systems in the 
nation. He wasn't the only PR genius behind the anti-health care 
campaign, but his coalition can honestly claim the kill. “Through a 
combination of skillfully targeted media and grassroots lobbying, 
these groups were able to change more minds than the President 
could, despite the White House ‘bully pulpit.’ . . . Never before 
have private interests spent so much money so publicly to defeat 
an initiative launched by a President,” states Thomas Scarlett in an 
article titled “Killing Health Care Reform” in Campaigns & Elections 
magazine. 41 

In 1993, Childs recalled, “The insurance industry was real nervous. 
Everybody was talking about health care reform. . . . We felt like 
we were looking down the barrel of a gun.” Forming coalitions, he 
explained, is a way to “provide cover for your interest. We needed 
cover because we were going to be painted as the bad guy. You 
[also] get strength in numbers. Some have lobby strength, some have 
grassroots strength, and some have good spokespersons. . . . Start 
with the natural, strongest allies, sit around a table and build up . . . 
to give your coalition a positive image.” For the health care debate, 
his coalition drew in “everyone from the homeless Vietnam veter- 
ans ... to some very conservative groups. It was an amazing array, 
and they were all doing something.” 42 

Instead of forming a single coalition, health reform opponents 
used opinion polling to develop a point-by-point list of vulnerabil- 
ities in the Clinton administration proposal and organized over 20 
separate coalitions to hammer away at each point. “In naming your 

Poisoning the Grassmols 


coalition . . . use words that you’ve identified in your research,” Childs 
said. “There are certain words that . . . have a general positive reac- 
tion. That’s where focus group and survey work can be very bene- 
ficial. ‘Fairness,’ ‘balance,’ ‘choice,’ ‘coalition,’ and ‘alliance’ are all 
words that resonate very positively.” The Coalition for Health Insur- 
ance Choices (CHIC), for example, focused on opposing the Clin- 
ton plan’s proposed “mandatory health alliances.” 13 

To drive home the message, CHIC sponsored a now-legendary 
TV spot called "Harry and Louise,” which featured a middle-class 
married couple lamenting the complexity of Clinton’s plan and the 
menace of a new “billion-dollar bureaucracy.” The ad was produced 
by Goddard*Claussen/First Tuesday, a PR and election campaign 
management firm that has worked for liberal Democrats, including 
the presidential campaigns of Gary Hart, Bruce Babbitt and Jesse 
Jackson. According to Robin Toner, writing in the September 30, 
1994, New York Times, “‘Many and Louise’ symbolized everything that 
went wrong with the great health care struggle of 1994: A powerful 
advertising campaign, financed by the insurance industry, that played 
on people's fears and helped derail the process.” 14 

CHIC and the other coalitions also used direct mail and phoning, 
coordinated with daily doses of misinformation from radio blowtorch 
Rush Limbaugh, to spread fears that government health care would 
bankrupt the country, reduce the quality of care, and lead to jail tenns 
for people who wanted to stick with their family doctor. 

Every day 20 million Americans tune in and turn on to the Lim- 
baugh talk radio show, which is aired on 650 stations across the 
United States. However, few people realize the degree of techno- 
logically sophisticated orchestration behind Limbaugh’s power. 
Childs explained how his coalition used paid ads on the Limbaugh 
show to generate thousands of citizen phone calls urging legislators 
to kill health reform. First, Rush would whip up his “dittohead” fans 
with a calculated rant against the Clinton health plan. Then during 
a commercial break listeners would hear an anti-health care ad and 
an 800 number to call for more information. Calling the number 
would connect them to a telemarketer, who would talk to them 
briefly and then “patch them through” directly to their congressper- 
son’s office. The congressional staffers fielding the calls typically had 
no idea that the constituents had been primed, loaded, aimed and 
fired at them by radio ads on the Limbaugh show, paid by the insur- 
ance industry, with the goal of orchestrating the appearance of over- 
whelming grassroots opposition to health reform. 



“That’s a very effective thing on a national campaign and even in 
a local area if the issue is right,” Childs said. He said this tactic is 
now widely used, although few will discuss the technique. 45 

Childs also stepped in to provide corporate resources where mem- 
bers of the coalition were unable to do it themselves: “With one 
group we wrote a large portion of their direct mail package which 
went out to 4.5 million people and generated hundreds of thousands 
of contacts. We worked with a number of [business trade] associa- 
tions to finance fly-ins to Washington, DC, where people lobbied 
their Representatives. ... In some case we funded them entirely, in 
some cases funded part of them, in others we didn’t have to fund, 
we just provided the background and message. In other cases we 
actually wrote the stuff. . . . With our coalition allies in some cases 
we were totally invisible. . . . We actually ended up funding some 
advertising that our coalition partners ran under their names, mostly 
inside the Beltway to effect lawmakers’ thinking." 46 

By 1994, the barrage had substantially altered the political envi- 
ronment, and the Republicans became convinced that Clinton’s 
plan — any plan — could be defeated. Their strategist, William Kris- 
tol, wrote a memo recommending a vote against any Administration 
health plan, “sight unseen.” Republicans who previously had signed 
on to various components of the Clinton plan backed away. GOP 
Senator Robeit Packwood, who had supported employer mandates 
for twenty years, announced that he opposed them in 1994, leading 
the National Journal to comment that Packwood ‘has assumed a 
prominent role in the campaign against a Democratic alternative that 
looks almost exactly like his own earlier policy prescriptions.” In des- 
peration George Mitchell, the Democratic Party’s Senate majority 
leader, announced a scaled-back plan that was almost pure sym- 
bolism, with no employer mandates, and very little content except 
a long-term goal of universal coverage. Republicans dismissed it with 
fierce scorn. 

In 1994, notes author James Fallows, the Wall Street Journal tested 
the reaction of a panel of citizens to various health plans, including 
the Clinton plan. First they tried describing each plan by its contents 
alone, and found that the panel preferred the Clinton plan to the 
main alternatives. “But when they explained that the preferred group 
of provisions was in fact ‘the Clinton plan,’ writes Fallows, “most 
members of the panel changed their minds and opposed it. They 
knew, after all, that Clinton’s plan could never work.” 47 


Hie SludqE Hiis tIhe Fan 

The major public acceptance barrier which surfaced in all the case 
studies is the widely held perception of sewage sludge as malodor- 
ous, disease causing or otherwise repulsive. . . . There is an irrational 
component to public attitudes about sludge which means that public 
education will not be entirely successful. 

1981 public relations document 

The German politician Otto von Bismarck once said that “those 
who love sausage and the law' should never watch either being 
made.” Something similar might be said about the process we’ve 
gone through in writing this book. Take, for example, our title. We 
knew we wanted to write an expose of the PR industry, but our pub- 
lisher felt that using “public relations” in the title would “put people 
right to sleep.” His advertising timeline required that we furnish a 
title before the manuscript was actually finished. We went through 
weeks of constant brainstorming in search of a title that would say 
public relations without actually using those words. We searched dic- 
tionaries for interesting phrases, and badgered friends to ask how 
they felt about titles such as The Hidden Manipulators, Flack Attack, 
Sound Bites Back, or The Selling of the Public Mind. We seriously 
considered lifting the title from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1994 film, 
True Lies, or from J. Edgar Hoover’s classic 1950s anticommunist dia- 
tribe, Masters of Deceit. 

Our final title was borrowed from the “Tom Tomorrow” cartoon 
reprinted in chapter one. We tried it on a friend who thought Toxic 
Sludge Is Good For You sounded “too w'eird” to be taken seriously, 
but our publisher felt it would stick in people’s heads and make the 
book easier to market. In the end, therefore, our decision boiled 




down to commercial calculations. We weren’t planning to write about 
“toxic sludge” per se. We were trying to reach so-called “Genera- 
tion X” readers with a “Generation X” title — a cynical, exaggerated 
parody of deceptive public relations. 

Then Nancy Blatt called, and we discovered that our “parody” is 
no exaggeration. 

Nancy Blatt is an aggressively perky woman who serves as Direc- 
tor of Public Information for the “Water Environment Federation” 
(WEF). She phoned to say that she had seen an advance notice men- 
tioning our book, and she was concerned that the title might inter- 
fere with the Federation’s plans to transform the image of sewage 
sludge. “It’s not toxic,” she said, “and we’re launching a campaign 
to get people to stop calling it sludge. We call it ‘biosolids.’ It can 
be used beneficially to fertilize farm fields, and we see nothing wrong 
with that. We've got a lot of work ahead to educate the public on 
the value of biosolids.” Blatt didn't think the title of our book would 
be helpful to her cause. "Why don’t you change it to Smoking Is Good 
For FoM. ? ”she suggested. “That’s a great title. People will pick it up. 
I think it has more impact. You can focus in on all the Philip Morris 
money. I think it’s a grabber.” 

We thanked her for the suggestion, but explained that we don't 
want our book to be confused with Christopher Buckley’s hilarious 
satire of the PR industry, titled Thank Yon For Smoking. 

Blatt took pains to insist that “I am not a flack for an interest that 
I don’t believe in personally.” She said she shared our dim view of 
PR representatives working to promote tobacco and other harmful 
products. She said the Water Environment Federation works to pro- 
mote recycling by applying the nutrients in sewage waste as fertil- 
izer to farm fields, a “natural process” that returns organic matter to 
the soil and keeps it from polluting water supplies. 

“We were concerned that you might have heard some negative 
things about the campaign planned by our PR firm, Powell Tate,” 
Blatt said. 

That caught our attention. Powell Tate is a blue-chip Washing- 
ton-based PR/lobby firm that specializes in public relations around 
controversial high-tech, safety and health issues, with clients from 
the tobacco, pharmaceutical, electronics and airlines industries. Jody 
Powell was President Jimmy Carter’s press secretary and confidant. 
Sheila Tate similarly served Vice-President George Bush and First 
Lady Nancy Reagan. Tate is also the chairperson of the Corporation 
for Public Broadcasting. 

77 he Sludge Hits the Fan 


Realizing we might be on to something, we asked Nancy Blatt to 
send more information about the Water Environment Federation. She 
dutifully mailed a glossy brochure and some other promotional mate- 
rials, along with a letter reiterating her concern that our book might 
“do a disservice to the public and the environment.” 1 Her coopera- 
tion quickly turned to stonewalling, however, when we requested 
strategy documents, memos, opinion surveys and other materials 
from Powell Tate. Legally we are entitled to these documents, since 
the Water Environment Federation is partially funded at taxpayer 
expense. WEF’s refusal to voluntarily produce them forced us to file 
a Freedom of Information Act request with the federal government. 
As this book goes to press, the EPA is still stalling on our informa- 
tion request. 

Our investigation into the PR campaign for “beneficial use” of 
sewage sludge revealed a murky tangle of corporate and govern- 
ment bureaucracies, conflicts of interest, and a coverup of massive 
hazards to the environment and human health. The trail began with 
the Water Environment Federation — formerly known as the “Feder- 
ation of Sewage Works Associations” — and led finally to Hugh Kauf- 
man, the legendary whistleblower at the hazardous site control 
division of the Environmental Protection Agency. 

In the 1980s, Kaufman refused to remain silent about the collab- 
oration between EPA officials and leaders of the industries they were 
supposed to regulate. His courageous testimony exposed the 
agency’s failure to deal with mounting chemical wastes and brought 
down Anne Burford, President Reagan’s EPA administrator. “His 
active protest resulted in a secret campaign to track his whereabouts 
and find evidence to fire him,” report Myron Peretz Glazer and 
Penina Migdal Glazer in their 1989 book, The Whistle Blowers. “The 
EPA’s inspector general became implicated in this scheme. Silencing 
Kaufman became official policy even if it meant invading his privacy 
in the futile hope of uncovering some personal indiscretion. . . . 
Kaufman gained national prominence and became a symbol of an 
employee who refused to be cowed by an oppressive bureaucracy.” 2 

Today, Kaufman is attempting to raise a similar alarm about the 
so-called “beneficial use” of sewage sludge, a boondoggle he refers 
to as “sludge-gate . . . the mother lode of toxic waste.” 3 

A Brief History of Slime 

Prior to the twentieth century, indoor plumbing was an almost 
unheard-of luxury. Common people used outhouses, while the 



wealthy used a primitive indoor system — bedpans, which were car- 
ried away by servants. In either case, the waste ultimately returned 
to the soil near its point of origin. In traditional, agricultural socie- 
ties, human waste was prized as a prime ingredient in what the 
Chinese called “night soil” — artfully composted, high-grade fertilizer. 

Things changed with the industrial revolution, which brought 
people together in congested cities, far away from farmlands, where 
composting and recycling were no longer practical. Open gutters 
were dug to carry sewage from city streets into nearby bodies of 
water. When populations were small and water supplies seemed 
unlimited, the wisdom of using fresh water as a vehicle and recep- 
tacle for human waste was not questioned. By the 1920s and 1930s, 
large cities were piping large quantities of untreated sewage into 
rivers and oceans, creating serious pollution problems. Septic sys- 
tems in thousands of small and medium-sized communities were fail- 
ing due to overloading. Thousands of industries were also producing 
chemical wastes and needed to dispose of them. 

The environmentally sound approach would have been to 
develop separate treatment systems for human and industrial waste. 
Biological wastes should have been recycled through a system that 
returned their nutrients to the soil, and businesses should have been 
required to separately treat their chemical wastes on-site so that they 
could be contained and re-used within the industries from which 
they came. At the time, however, it seemed easier and cheaper to 
simply dump everything into a single common sewer system. For 
businesses, the system provided tax-based aid to help them dispose 
of their toxic byproducts. For people, indoor plumbing that magic- 
ally “carried everything away” was a luxury that marked their escape 
from frontier hardship and their entrance into modernity. The system 
helped limit the spread of communicable diseases, and for many it 
symbolized the difference between primitive crudity and the civi- 
lized benefits of technological society. 

The problem with this system, however, is that it collects, mixes, 
and concentrates a wide range of noxious and toxic materials which 
are then very difficult, if not impossible, to separate and detoxify. 
According to Abby Rockefeller, a philanthropist and advocate of 
waste treatment reform, “conventional wastewater treatment systems 
. . . are not designed to produce usable end-products. Because this 
is so, it must be said that failure to solve the overall problem of pol- 
lution caused by the waste materials received by these systems is a 
function of their design." 1 ' 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


“Today,” observe environmental writers Pat Costner and Joe 
Thornton, “waterless treatment systems — on-site composting and 
drying toilets that process human wastes directly into a safe, useful 
soil additive — are available. These dry systems are more economi- 
cal than water-flushed toilets and their attendant collection and treat- 
ment systems. However, water-flushed toilets are so entrenched in 
the cultural infrastructure that the transition to alternative waste sys- 
tems has been blocked. Instead, billions of dollars are spent on per- 
fecting the mistake of waterborne waste systems: wastes are first 
diluted in water and then, at great expense, partially removed. The 
products of this treatment are sludge — which requires even further 
treatment before disposal — and treated effluent, which carries the 
remaining pollutants into receiving waters.” 5 

To cope with the mounting problem of water pollution, the United 
States launched what has become the largest construction grants pro- 
gram in US history, linking millions of homes and tens of thousands 
of businesses into central treatment facilities. As the 1970s dawned, 
front-page headlines across America told stories of polluted drink- 
ing water and quarantined beachfronts. Pressure from environmen- 
talists spurred Congress to pass the Clean Water Act of 1972, which 
according to US Senator Max Baucus, “put us on the course to fish- 
able and swimmable rivers at a time when one river was known as 
a fire hazard and others hadn’t seen fish in a generation." 6 The Clean 
Water Act required communities to make sure that by 1977 their 
sewage plants could remove at least 85 percent of the pollutants pass- 
ing through them, and allocated funding to pay for the additional 
treatment and filtering technologies needed to achieve this goal. By 
1976, the federal government was spending $50 billion per year to 
help cities achieve water purity goals. 7 

In the 1980s, however, politicians responded to pressure for 
reduced federal spending by cutting funds for water treatment, 
and by the 1990s the money had been virtually eliminated. 6 In the 
meantime, the push for clean water had created another problem — 
tons of pollution-laden sewage sludge generated as a byproduct of 
the treatment process. 

According to Abby Rockefeller, the hundreds of billions of dollars 
spent purifying water through central sewage processing plants has 
largely been wasted. “Leaving aside the immense costs of this option, 
both in energy and in money, there is the critical though inadequately 
recognized problem of the sludge,” Rockefeller states. “The more 
advanced the treatment of the sewage (the more successful the 



separation), the more sludge will be produced, and the worse — the 
more unusable and dangerous — it will be. That is, the ‘better’ the 
treatment, the greater the range of incompatible materials that will 
have been concentrated in this highly entropic gray jelly.” 9 

Secret Ingredients 

The HarperCollins Dictionary of Environmental Science defines 
sludge as a “viscous, semisolid mixture of bacteria- and virus-laden 
organic matter, toxic metals, synthetic organic chemicals, and settled 
solids removed from domestic and industrial waste water at a sewage 
treatment plant.” 10 Over 60,000 toxic substances and chemical com- 
pounds can be found in sewage sludge, and scientists are developing 
700 to 1,000 new chemicals per year. Stephen Lester of the Citizens 
Clearinghouse for Hazardous Wastes has compiled information from 
researchers at Cornell University and the American Society of Civil 
Engineers showing that sludge typically contains the following toxins: 

• Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs); 

• Chlorinated pesticides — DDT, dieldrin, aldrin, endrin, chlordane, 
heptachlor, lindane, mirex, kepone, 2,4,5-T, 2,4-D; 

• Chlorinated compounds such as dioxins; 

• Polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons; 

• Heavy metals — arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury; 

• Bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasitic worms, fungi; and 

• Miscellaneous — asbestos, petroleum products, industrial solvents. 11 

In addition, a 1994 investigation by the US General Accounting 
Office found that “the full extent of the radioactive contamination of 
sewage sludge, ash and related by-products nationwide is unknown.” 
Most of the radioactive material is flushed down the drain by hos- 
pitals, businesses and decontamination laundries, a practice which 
has contaminated at least nine sewage plants in the past decade. 12 

In 1977, EPA Administrator Douglas Costle estimated that by 1990 
treatment plants would be generating 10 million tons of sludge per 
year, a thought that “gives us all a massive environmental head- 
ache.” 13 Today there are about 15,000 publicly-owned wastewater 
treatment works in the United States, discharging approximately 26 
billion gallons per day of treated wastewater into lakes, streams and 
waterways. Before treatment, this wastewater contains over a million 
pounds of hazardous components. Sewage plants use heat, chemicals 
and bacterial treatments to detoxify 42 percent of these components 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


through biodegradation. Another 25 percent escapes into the atmos- 
phere, and 19 percent is discharged into lakes and streams. The 
remaining 14 percent — approximately 28 million pounds per year — 
winds up in sewage sludge. 14 

Once created, this sludge must be disposed of in some fashion. 
The available methods include: incineration (which releases pollu- 
tion into the air), dumping into landfills (which is expensive, and 
often lets contaminants leach into groundwater), and ocean dump- 
ing (where it has created vast underwater dead seas). A fourth 
approach — gasification, using sludge to generate methanol or energy 
— is favored by EPA’s Hugh Kaufman as the “most environmentally 
sound approach, but also the most expensive.” 15 A fifth approach — 
using sludge as plant fertilizer — was considered hazardous to health 
and the environment until the 1970s, but it has the advantage of being 
inexpensive. As budget concerns mounted in the late 1970s, the EPA 
began to pressure sewage plants to adopt the cheapest method avail- 
able — spreading sludge on farm fields. 16 

A Rose By Any Other Name 

To educate the public at large about the benefits of sludge, the EPA 
turned to Nancy Blatt’s employer, known today as the “Water Envi- 
ronment Federation." Although its name evokes images of cascad- 
ing mountain streams, the WEE is actually the sewage industry’s main 
trade, lobby and public relations organization, with over 41,000 
members and a multi-million-dollar budget that supports a 100- 
member staff. Founded in 1928 as tire “Federation of Sewage Works 
Associations," the organization in 1950 recognized the growing sig- 
nificance of industrial waste in sludge by changing its name to the 
“Federation of Sewage and Industrial Wastes Associations.” In I960, 
it changed its name again to the cleaner-sounding “Water Pollution 
Control Federation.” 17 

In 1977, Federation director Robert Canham criticized the EPA’s 
enthusiasm for land application of sludge, which he feared could 
introduce viruses into the food chain. “The results can be disastrous,” 
he warned. 18 By the 1990s, however, Federation members were run- 
ning out of other places to put the stuff. The Federation became an 
eager supporter of land fanning, and even organized a contest among 
its members to coin a nicer-sounding name for sludge. 

The proposal to create a “Name Change Task Force” originated 
with Peter Machno, manager of Seattle’s sludge program, after pro- 
testers mobilized against his plan to spread sludge on local tree fanns. 



“If I knocked on your door and said I’ve got this beneficial product 
called sludge, what are you going to say?” he asked. At Machno’s 
suggestion, the Federation newsletter published a request for alter- 
native names. Members sent in over 250 suggestions, including “all 
growth,” “purenutri,” “biolife,” “bioslurp.” “black gold,” “geoslime,” 
“sca-doo,” “the end product,” “humanure,” “hu-doo,” “organic resid- 
uals,” “bioresidue,” “urban biomass,” “powergro,” “organite,” “recy- 
clite,” “nutri-cake” and “ROSE,” short for “recycling of solids 
environmentally.” 19 In June of 1991, the Name Change Task Force 
finally settled on “biosolids,” which it defined as the "nutrient-rich, 
organic byproduct of the nation’s wastewater treatment process.” 20 
The new name attracted sarcastic comment from the Doublespeak. 
Quarterly Review, edited by Rutgers University professor William 
Lutz. “Does it still stink?” Lutz asked. He predicted that the new name 
“probably won’t move into general usage. It’s obviously coming from 
an engineering mentality. It does have one great virtue, though. You 
think of ‘biosolids’ and your mind goes blank.” 21 

According to Machno, the name change was not intended to 
“cover something up or hide something from the public. . . . We’re 
tiying to come up with a term . . . that can communicate to the public 
the value of this product that we spend an awful lot of money on 
turning into a product that we use in a beneficial way.” 22 

James Bynum, director of an organization called “Help for Sewage 
Victims,” saw a more sinister motive behind the name change. In 
1992 the EPA modified its “Part 503” technical standards which reg- 
ulate sludge application on farmlands. The new regulations used the 
term “biosolids” for the first time, and sludge which was previously 
designated as hazardous waste was reclassified as “Class A” fertil- 
izer. “The beneficial sludge use policy simply changed the name from 
sludge to fertilizer, and the regulation changed the character of sludge 
from polluted to clean so it could be recycled with a minimum of 
public resistance,” Bynum wrote. “Sludge that was too contaminated 
to be placed in a strictly controlled sanitaiy landfill was promoted 
as a safe fertilizer and dumped on farmland without anyone having 
any responsibility. . . . There is a real concern for everyone, when 
a bureaucrat can write a regulation which circumvents the liability 
provisions of the major Congressional mandated environmental laws, 
by simply changing the name of a regulated material.’’ 23 

A few months after the debut of “biosolids,” the Water Pollution 
Control Federation dropped the words “pollution control” from its 
own name and replaced them with “environment.” At the group’s 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


64th annual conference, WEF President Roger Dolan explained the 
reasoning behind the latest name change: “We don’t control pollu- 
tion anymore; we eliminate it. To the outside world, our people came 
to be seen as pollution people. In today’s world, the word ‘control’ 
just isn't good enough.” In fact, this claim was largely rhetorical. “Vir- 
tual elimination has not been achieved for one single persistent 
toxic,” said E. Davie Fulton, a Canadian official involved in sagging 
efforts to clean up the Great Lakes. 24 

So You See, It Is Good For You 

In 1992, the Water Environment Federation, describing itself as a 
“not-for-profit technical and educational organization” whose "mis- 
sion is to preserve and enhance the global water environment,” 25 
received a $300,000 grant from the EPA to “educate the public” about 
the “beneficial uses” of sludge. “The campaign will tie in with the 
Federation’s ongoing efforts to promote use of the term ‘biosolids,’ ” 
reported the Federation’s December 1992 newsletter. 

“Beneficial use” is tire industry euphemism for the practice of 
spreading sludge on fa mi fields. Even before the cunent push, sludge 
has been applied to soil for decades. Milwaukee’s sewage sludge has 
been dried and sold nationally for 70 years as “Milorganite,” a lawn 
and garden fertilizer. Other cities have offered sludge products such 
as “Nu-Eanh” from Chicago, “Nitrohumus” from Los Angeles, and 
“Hou-actinite” from Houston. 26 In the early 1980s, Milorganite con- 
tained high levels of cadmium, a toxic heavy metal, and the fertil- 
izer bag carried a warning: “Do not use on vegetable gardens, other 
edible crops or fruit trees. Eating food grown on soil containing 
Milorganite may cause damage to health." 27 Under current federal 
rules, however, most sludge products cariy no such warning. Con- 
sumers are largely unaware that tens of thousands of acres, from 
Midwest daily land to Florida citrus groves and California fruit 
orchards, are routinely “fertilized” with byproducts of industrial and 
human sewage. In theory, this approach harkens back to the time- 
honored natural system of composting. Of course, the organic fann- 
ers of previous centuries didn't have to worry that their “night soil” 
contained a synergistic soup of dioxins, asbestos, DDT and lead that 
could contaminate themselves, their groundwater, and their food. 

“I am appalled at what I would term the ‘total disregard for human 
health’ and the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency is 
actively promoting and is, in fact, lulling communities throughout 
the United States into initiating programs for the composting of 



sewage sludge,” said Melvin Kramer, an infectious disease epidemi- 
ologist who has been researching the issue since the late 1970s. He 
says the EPA’s plan for sludge disposal poses “a significant health 
hazard to the population in general, but especially to the elderly, 
children, and the infirm, both in terms of nuisances as exemplified 
by excessive putrid odors and minor allergic reactions ... to life- 
threatening diseases.” 28 

Some environmental activists with Greenpeace and tire Citizens 
Clearinghouse on Hazardous Waste have warned about the dangers 
of sludge, but most groups have bought into die argument that sludge 
farming is the least offensive way to deal with the problem of waste 
disposal. Some groups even support sludge farming. During the 
1970s, these environmentalists worked for passage of the Clean Water 
Act. Now they find themselves in the awkward position of defend- 
ing its consequence — huge mountains of poisonous sludge that need 
to be put somewhere. Sarah Clark, fonnerly of the Environmental 
Defense Fund, claims that sludge farming “is the best means of 
returning to the soil nutrients and organic matter that were originally 
removed. It is recycling a resource just as recycling newspapers or 
botdes is. If the right safeguards are taken, it can be environmen- 
tally protective and even beneficial.” 29 

Unfortunately, “the right safeguards” are not being taken. Joseph 
Zinobile, a risk management consultant with the Pennsylvania-based 
Waste Risk Education Fund agrees that “human waste residue can 
be applied to land in a safe manner.” The problem, he says, is that 
“it is often not clone safely at this time. The primary reason that it is 
not always done safely at this time is a nearly complete subjugation 
of safety concerns by the US EPA in favor of their concern over solv- 
ing their ‘disposal dilemma.' ’ ,30 

Dr. Stanford Tackett, a chemist and expert on lead contamina- 
tion, became alarmed about sludge on the basis of its lead content 
alone. “The use of sewage sludge as a fertilizer poses a more sig- 
nificant lead threat to the land than did the use of leaded gasoline,” 
he says. “All sewage sludges contain elevated concentrations of lead 
due to the nature of the treatment process. . . . Lead is a highly toxic 
and cumulative poison. Lead poisoning can cause severe mental 
retardation or death. It is now known that lead interferes with the 
blood-forming process, vitamin D metabolism, kidney function, and 
the neurological process. From the standpoint of lead alone, sludge 
is ‘safe’ only if you are willing to accept a lowered IQ for the young 
children living in the sludge area. And what about the other toxins?” 31 

7he Sludge Hits the Fan 


Tackett is appalled “that the government would take the citizens’ 
money and use it in such an odious way. The land spreading pro- 
gram for sewage sludge is a scam of enormous proportions, driven 
mainly by money,” he charges. “The high sounding justifications such 
as ‘sludge is a beneficial resource’ and ‘sludge is just as safe as 
manure’ are clever excuses designed to fool the public. ... In truth, 
only one to three percent of the sludge is useful to plants. The other 
97 to 99 percent is contaminated waste that should not be spread 
where people live. . . . Land spreading of sewage sludge is not a 
true ‘disposal’ method, but rather serves only to transfer the pollu- 
tants in the sludge from the treatment plant to the soil, air and ground 
w'ater of the disposal site.” 32 

One Hand Washes the Other 

Tackett also condemns the “selective science” and “manipulation 
of research money” used to rationalize sludge fanning. “Millions of 
dollars have been made available through EPA and other federal, 
state and local agencies, for ‘beneficial use’ research. Toxicologists, 
public health scientists and medical researchers have not had a 
similar money pot available to study the potential dangers and 
adverse health effects of sewage sludge. It is no wonder then that 
the scientists selected by the EPA to serve on sludge advisory com- 
mittees are the ‘beneficial use’ researchers, and the only research 
reports they deem acceptable for the purpose of adopting new 
sludge spreading regulations are from the ‘beneficial use’ studies. 
. . . The claims now made for ‘sludge safety’ sound eerily like the 
earlier claims that ‘DDT is perfectly safe’ and ‘asbestos is a miracle 
fiber that poses no danger at all.” 33 

In fact, the researchers, advocates, regulators and practitioners of 
sludge farming are a closely interwoven group. Dr. Alan Rubin, for 
example, served as chief of the Environmental Protection Agency’s 
sludge management branch where he oversaw' the development of 
new regulations for land farming of sludge fertilizer. In 1994 the EPA 
loaned Rubin to the Water Environment Federation, while continu- 
ing to pay half of his salary. Now Rubin the regulator is a full time 
cheerleader for “biosolids.” Together he and Nancy Blatt are a team, 
barnstorming the nation, meeting the press, schmoozing with politi- 
cians, and debating critics. 34 

Dr. Terry Logan, a professor of soil chemistry at Ohio State Univer- 
sity, is another sludge advocate who has conflicting roles and inter- 
ests. He co-chairs the US EPA Peer Review Committee, a group 



described by the EPA as “the best scientific talent and data assem- 
bled” to help develop recent federal regulations that eased restric- 
tions on sludge farming. Logan also receives $2,400 per month as a 
paid consultant and board member of the N-Viro International Cor- 
poration, which has developed a patented process for converting 
sludge into fertilizer by mixing it with dust from concrete kilns and 
heat-drying it to kill germs. N-Viro, a client of Hill & Knowlton PR, 
handles sludge treatment and disposal for sewer plants in New Jersey, 
Minnesota, Ohio and Harsham, England. At the recommendation of 
Logan’s committee, the EPA promulgated a modification of its “Part 
503” regulations that increased the allowable heavy metals in sludge 
fertilizer. At the same time that Logan was involved in developing 
the new, relaxed regulations, he held stock options in N-Viro whose 
value could have dropped substantially if he had recommended 
stricter requirements. 35 

Despite its many customers, N-Viro is in shaky financial condi- 
tion. Since 1993, the value of its stock has plummeted from $9-50 to 
$1.50 a share. 36 One of its major problems has been the slow rate 
of acceptance of land farming of sludge. The company is banking 
on sludge regulator/promoter Alan Rubin to help overcome politi- 
cal and PR obstacles so the company and industry can flourish. In 
1994, Dr. Logan was named “man of the year” by the EPA, and 
N-Viro, along with the Compost Council and the Rodale Institute, 
received a $300,000 grant from the US Congress to help promote 
its product. 37 

Criticism of EPA’s sludge policy has emerged from within the EPA 
itself. William Sanjour has spent 16 years supervising hazardous waste 
management programs. In 1990 he testified before the Georgia State 
Senate on the “close working relationships formed with government 
officials who are lured by the huge profits made by the waste man- 
agement industry. . . . There are many examples. . . . The power of 
this industry to influence government actions is further enhanced by 
the ease with which government regulatory officials are hired by the 
industry. Over thirty state and federal officials have gone over to the 
waste management industry in the southeast region alone including 
a fonner EPA Regional Administrator in Atlanta. This practice extends 
even to the highest levels of government. William Ruckelshaus, a 
former Administrator of EPA and a close advisor to President Bush, 
is CEO of the second largest waste management company in Amer- 
ica. He is credited with getting William Reilly, the present Adminis- 
trator, his job. . . . With this kind of influence and power, trying to 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


have a meaningful hazardous waste reduction program ... is, frankly, 
like trying to have a meaningful egg laying program after you’ve let 
the fox into the chicken coop.” 38 

Our Sludge Doesn’t Stink 

The EPA’s PR strategy for sludge was first outlined in a 40-page report 
published in 1981 with a classic bureaucratic title: “Institutional Con- 
straints and Public Acceptance Barriers to Utilization of Municipal 
Wastewater and Sludge for Land Reclamation and Biomass Produc- 
tion” (imagine the acronym: ICPABUMWSLRBP). It warns that there 
is an “irrational component” to the public’s attitude toward sludge, 
including the widely-held notion that sludge smells bad: “It is difficult 
to say to what extent odors emanating from sludge may be imagined. 
However, it is the most common ground voiced by opponents in tak- 
ing action against land application projects.” In addition, “the growing 
awareness about hazardous wastes and the inadequacy of their past 
disposal practices will inevitably increase public skepticism.” 39 
While national environmental groups are usually no threat to 
sludge farming, ICPABUMWSLRBP warns that projects may be 
blocked by small local groups. Citizens who “feel their interests 
threatened” may “often mount a significant campaign against a proj- 
ect.” To counter this opposition, ICPABUMWSLRBP advises project 
advocates to choose a strategy of either “aggressive” or “passive” 
public relations. “Aggressive public relations” uses “glossy brochures 
describing the project; open public meetings; presentations to spe- 
cific interest groups; presentation of films about similar projects; local 
media coverage; technical education campaigns for the public and 
in schools; establishment of a hotline for quick response questions; 
and presentation of material stressing community benefits from the 
project." This approach, however, entails some risk: “A highly visible 
public relations campaign . . . would in itself alarm and harden opin- 
ion against the project.” In some communities, therefore, 
ICPABUMWSLRBP recommends using “a passive public relations 
campaign” to introduce sludge farming. A “passive” campaign makes 
“little effort to reach out to particular segments or constituents of the 
public. Rather, information about the project lis] made available for 
individuals and groups which made the effort to obtain it.” This 
secretive approach works best in small, rural communities “where 
the application site is relatively isolated.”'* 0 

Kelly Sarber, a PR specialist in sludge crisis management, offered 
her advice to other sludge marketers in a 1994 article titled 



“Campaign Tactics: How to Strategize for Successful Project Devel- 
opment." The article warns that “public opposition has taken its toll” 
on the sludge industry, which is experiencing “new, unprecedented 
levels of interest, discomfort and complaints from the public.” To 
counter these stirrings of community self-determination, Sarber uses 
tactics that she attributes to sludge opponents, such as “creating 
photo opportunities, using a small number of vocal people to make 
it appear like a majority, and undermining messages through counter 
messages. . . . Countering the opposition without letting them deter- 
mine the approval process is the most important goal of a good cam- 
paign manager. . . . This is called ‘controlling the debate.’ ” 41 
To control the local media’s coverage of the sludge issue, Sarber 
recommends “a pre-emptive strike” to “get positive messages out 
about the project before the counter-messages start.” She advises 
sludge companies to identify and develop “several advocates or opin- 
ion leaders” who can persuade other community members that they 
“have taken the time to learn about the project and are comfortable 
with it from an environmental standpoint.” They should be careful, 
however, to avoid seeking early public support from local politicians, 
because “a local community can be very unforgiving of a political 
leader believed to have come to some type of conclusion about what 
is best for the rest of the community before anyone else has heard 
about the project. ... A better positioning of the politician is to pro- 
vide education . . . while promoting the importance of the commu- 
nity having ‘an open mind’ about the project.” 42 

Sarber is especially proud of her PR work in 1991-1992 for Enviro- 
Gro Technologies, a sludge hauler now operating under the name 
Wheelebrator. Sarber quietly approached business leaders and politi- 
cians in the rural town of Holly, Colorado (population 1,400), which 
Enviro-Gro had targeted as a dumping-site for New York City sludge. 
When the proper groundwork had been laid, the pro-sludge cam- 
paign struck like a blitzkrieg, quickly deploying “third-party” scien- 
tific advocates to assure local citizens of die safety of sludge. Sarber 
bragged about stealing the media spotlight at a public meeting orga- 
nized by opponents of sludge farming: “[Pro-sludge] advocates were 
placed direcdy on stage and demanded participation in the forum, 
which was granted. In addition, local advocates promoted the pro- 
ject through general grandstanding activities in the audience. ... By 
targeting the press during the event, the spin of the story changed 
from an opposition meeting to one which showed that several farm- 
ers wanted to find out how they could get more biosolids. Rather 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


than allowing the opposition to have a press ‘success’ in blasting the 
project, the media stories show support, with only a few dissenters. 
When Governor Romer of Colorado came out to throw a shovel full 
of New York City biosolids on a field, it was apparent that the ini- 
tial siting of the project had been successful.” 43 

Flush With Victory 

Kelly Sarber has fought on the front lines of several other sludge 
campaigns involving sludge disposal for New York City. In addition 
to Enviro-Gro, her employers have included the New York Organic 
Fertilizer Company and Merco Joint Venture, the major players in 
the Big Apple’s billion-dollar sludge disposal game. The city has 
signed contracts totalling $634 million with Merco and New York 
Organic, in exchange for which the two companies have committed 
to haul away over a thousand tons per day of city sewage sludge. 44 

New York has an especially messy history of waste disposal prob- 
lems. In addition to sewage, the city used to dump its garbage into 
the ocean, and is famous for the 1987 “garbage barge” that was forced 
to sail for nearly 3,000 miles in search of a place to dump its cargo. 
New York’s practice of dumping sludge into the ocean first came 
under fire from the EPA in 1981, prompting the city to file a lawsuit 
arguing that ocean dumping was environmentally preferable to land- 
based alternatives. In 1985, however, the EPA found that New York’s 
ocean dumping site, located 12 miles offshore, had suffered heavy 
degradation, including bacterial contamination of shellfish, elevated 
levels of toxic metals, and accumulations of metals and toxic chem- 
icals in fish. Federal legislation in 1987 forced New York to close 
the 12-mile site and begin dumping at a new site 106 miles from 
shore. Shortly afterwards, fishermen near the 106-mile site began to 
complain of decreased catches and diseased fish. In 1988, Congress 
passed the Ocean Dumping Reform Act, requiring a complete end 
to ocean dumping by June 1991 and imposing fines of up to $500,000 
per day if New York failed to comply. 45 

As the city scrambled to meet the deadline, Merco and New York 
Organic used both “aggressive” and “passive” PR to persuade small 
towns in other states to take their sludge. Their efforts met with mixed 
success. Alabama residents shut off all attempts to export New York 
sludge to their pastures, and Merco’s efforts in Oklahoma failed 
in four towns. In Thomas, Oklahoma (population 1,244), news of 
Merco’s interest triggered what Thomas Mayor Bill Haney described 
as a “civil war." Within two weeks after the plan went public, state 



officials had received over 200 angry letters from Thomas residents. 46 
The public outcry prompted the Oklahoma legislature to vote 
unanimously for a moratorium, signed into law by the governor on 
April 17, 1992, prohibiting land application of sludge that contains 
“significantly higher” concentrations of heavy metal than sludge pro- 
duced in the state. 47 

“It’s a scary thing at first to take New York's waste and spread it 
on the land that supports you,” Sarber admitted. “In fact to some 
people it’s the most scary thing they can think of. But after a little 
education most people eventually come around.” 49 

In her work as an “environmental media consultant,” Sarber faced 
questions that went beyond issues of nitrogen content and pH bal- 
ance. She was called upon repeatedly to deny allegations that 
her employers were engaged in environmental violations, influence 
peddling and organized crime. 

Merco came under criticism, for example, when it was discov- 
ered that one of its partners, Standard Marine Sendees, belonged to 
the Frank family barge empire, a group of companies labeled by the 
state as New York Harbor’s worst polluter. Standard Marine owed 
over $1 million in taxes and judgments and was forced to drop out 
of Merco after it was unable to get financial bonding. 49 

In 1992, Newsciay reported that New York deputy mayor Norman 
Steisel, whose duties included oversight of the city’s sludge program, 
was a partner in New York Organic Fertilizer Co., and noted that 
the brother of New York Senator Alfonse D’Amato was a partner in 
the law Firm that negotiated New York Organic’s contract with the 
city. A probe was launched to investigate possible influence- 
peddling, and company spokesperson Sarber promised that “we will 
cooperate fully.” 50 

A few months later, Alphonse D’Arco, a former boss for the 
Luchese crime family, testified during a June 1992 murder trial that 
two Merco partners — the John P. Picone and Peter Scalamandre & 
Sons construction firms — had paid $90,000 a year in payoffs to the 
Luchese family. 51 In separate but corroborating testimony, D’Arco and 
Gambino family turncoat Salvatore (“The Bull”) Gravano also 
described Picone’s involvement in a sweetheart deal involving bid- 
rigging and manipulation of New York labor unions to benefit 
the Gambino, Genovese, Luchese, Colombo and Bonanno crime 
families. 52 Picone and Scalamandre were unavailable for comment, 
but Sarber was brought out to state that her employers “have had 
no business or personal relationships with any of these people.” 53 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


In 1994, Newsday reported that Merco was using the Cross Harbor 
Railroad to ship its sludge, even though Salvatore Franco, a major 
Cross Harbor investor, had been banned for life from the waste 
industry in New Jersey. In response to a reporter’s inquiry, 
spokesperson Kelly Sarber said Merco had no idea that Franco was 
involved with Cross Harbor. 54 

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Slick 

On December 10, 1991, Newsday reported that “stealth is New York 
City’s new weapon in its war on sludge. The city has decided to 
make a secret of where it plans to ship tons of the sewage gunk 
beginning next month. It hopes to secure permits for sludge disposal 
in some towns before the local gadflys can get all riled up about 
it. Thus, the names of towns where New York Organic Fertilizer . . . 
has applied for sludge permits are strictly hush-hush. Only town 
officials have been told. . . . The city . . . wants to avoid a political 
circus such as the one in Oklahoma, where three towns rejected 
another New York plan for sludge because they feared it could carry 
everything from AIDS to organized crime with it.” 55 

Bowie, Arizona (population 400), was one of the communities 
targeted with “passive public relations” in 1992, when Bowie resi- 
dent Ronald K. Bryce received state approval to apply 83 million 
pounds per year of New York sludge on his cotton fields. The rest 
of the community found out about the plan when someone over- 
heard a conversation in a restaurant in the summer of 1993, shortly 
before the first deliveries of sludge were scheduled to begin. Bryce 
had received his permits without public hearings or even public 
notice. Arizona Daily Star reporter Keith Bagwell sought an expla- 
nation from Melanie Barton, a solid waste official with the Arizona 
Department of Environmental Quality. “Our approval was based on 
guidelines, which are like rules but without the public comment,” 
Barton said. She added that sewage sludge had been applied to crops 
in Arizona at least since 1978. “But we still don't have rules,” Barton 
said. “Only guidelines. We have no ability to enforce them legally.” 
Exposure of the sludge plan created a public furor, and the state 
hastily scheduled “informational” public meetings, but their expla- 
nations failed to allay fears. “Who knows what will happen in 20 
years — we don’t want another Love Canal,” said Rhonda Woodcox, 
vice-president of the Bowie Chamber of Commerce. 56 

Further inquiry by Bagwell discovered that over 100 million 
pounds of sludge from Arizona’s own Pima County sewers had also 



been spread on area farms since 1983. EPA regulations had enforced 
limits for only one metal and one chemical in the sludge, even 
though Pima County sewage treatment superintendent Donald Arm- 
strong admitted that the county sewer system received wastes from 
about 1,500 industries, roughly half of which use toxic chemicals. 
Test data showed that the Pima County sludge contained over 80 
“priority pollutants,” including dioxin, phenol and toluene, along with 
high levels of cadmium, lead and other toxic heavy metals. 

Actually, the Arizona sludge was relatively clean compared to the 
stuff being shipped in from New York. “Sludge from San Diego, Los 
Angeles or New York you have to look at carefully — it’s different in 
highly industrialized areas," said Ian Pepper, a soil and water science 
professor involved in studying Pima County’s sludge-use program. 
“The metal content of Tucson sludge is relatively low," Pepper said. 
“There isn’t as much impact from heavy industry.” 57 

“I’ve been eyeball deep in sewer sludge disposal on agricultural 
land for years,” said Kirk Brown, a soil science professor at Texas 
A&M University. “Some sludge you could use for 50 years before 
having problems — not New York City's.” Brown’s assessment was 
confirmed by Ian Michaels, a spokesman for the New York City 
Department of Environmental Protection, who estimated that the city 
had 2,000 unregulated companies discharging industrial waste into 
the sewers, but admitted that his department had “no way of know- 
ing how many . . . there are.” Michaels said half of New York’s 14 
sewage treatment plants were built in the 1930s, and only 11 meet 
modern treatment standards. 58 

Despite this information, Ronald Bryce began spreading New York 
sludge on his farm in Bowie on April 5, 1994. Town residents com- 
plained that the state allowed him to spread millions of pounds of 
sludge before receiving any test results on the incoming material. 
Tests on the April shipment were finally completed in July, showing 
that the New York sludge contained petroleum hydrocarbons at 14 to 
22 times the level at which state regulations require a cleanup from 
oil and gasoline spills. 59 The tests also showed fecal coliform bacte- 
ria at 33 5 times the limit allowed under federal law. 

“That sounds more like untreated sludge,” said Laura Fondahl, an 
engineer at the EPA's San Francisco office. “It couldn’t be land- 
applied — it would have to go to a municipal landfill, a dedicated 
sludge-only landfill, or to a treatment plant. Those are binding 
rules.” 60 Nevertheless, Bryce was allowed to resume spreading on 
his farmland in August 1994. 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


When Push Comes to Sludge 

After Merco’s rejection in Oklahoma, it turned to an alternate site — 
the Mexican border town of Sierra Blanca (population 500), one 
of the poorest towns in one of the poorest counties in Texas. Once 
again, citizens quickly mobilized to protest Merco’s plans to spread 
sludge on desert grazing land — nine miles from a planned reposi- 
tory for nuclear waste from power plants in Maine and Vermont. 

To placate the town, Merco offered money to buy a new fire 
engine, donated $10,000 to the school board, set up a scholarship 
fund, threw barbecues, handed out Christmas turkeys, and promised 
$50,000 a year to the local community development corporation. 
Merco executives also contributed $5,000 to Texas Governor Ann 
Richards, whose appointees on the water commission approved 
Merco’s permit in record time. 

“These host community benefits are considered normal in these 
types of projects,” explained Merco representative Kelly Sarber. 61 

Critics, however, noted that the money Merco was spending in 
Austin and Sierra Blanca was a drop in the bucket compared to the 
$168 million the company was receiving from New York City. 

Local supporters of the plan included George Fore, ranch man- 
ager of the Merco site and President of the “Texas Beneficial Use 
Coalition,” a Merco front group. Fore accused opponents of behav- 
ing irrationally: “It’s like that [salsa sauce] commercial. When the cow- 
boys find out the stuff they have is from New York City, they want 
to string someone up. It’s the same way with land application. People 
get particularly bothered when they find out you’re bringing sludge 
out here from the big city.” 62 

Critics, however, expressed more visceral objections. “I’ve smelled 
cow manure, the rice paddies in Vietnam they use human manure 
to fertilize. That’s a different smell,” said Sierra Blanca resident 
Leonard Theus. “This is like a chemical smell.” 63 

In February 1994, several opponents of the sludge farm said they 
had received anonymous death threats. Bill Addington, leader of an 
anti-sludge citizens’ group called “Save Sierra Blanca” blamed Merco 
for a recent fire in which his family’s lumber company had burned 
to the ground, a claim that Merco attorney Jon Masters described as 
“absolutely ludicrous.” 64 

In August 1994, EPA tests of Merco sludge in Sierra Blanca showed 
35 times the safe level of fecal coliform bacteria. “We don’t perceive 
it as a problem,” responded Masters. “The fecal coliform testing is 
erratic in its results.” 65 



“The Smell of Money” 

The town’s sludge war hit the national airwaves in 1994 when it was 
featured on TV Nation, a satiric show hosted by investigative film- 
maker Michael Moore. TV Nation accompanied a trainload of New 
York sludge cake (“rich and moist like most finer cakes”) from 
New York to Sierra Blanca, where Merco representative Kelly Sarber 
led a tour of the farm site. “There’s been a lot of thought and there’s 
a lot of integrity in how we’re doing this, and the proof is in the 
pudding,” Sarber quipped. Asked about the smell, another Merco 
employee smiled. “It’s the smell of money,” she said. 66 

The cheap humor turned serious as the camera cut to the Wash- 
ington office of Hugh Kaufman. “This hazardous material is not 
allowed to be disposed of or used for beneficial use in the state of 
New York, and it’s not allowed to be disposed of or used for ben- 
eficial use in Texas either,” Kaufman said. “What you have is an ille- 
gal ‘haul and dump’ operation masquerading as an environmentally 
beneficial project, and it’s only a masquerade. . . . The fishes off of 
New York are being protected, the citizens and land of New York 
are being protected, and the people of Texas are being poisoned. 
Something is rotten in Texas.” 

'TV Nation aired bitter complaints from local residents interviewed 
on the dusty streets of Sierra Blanca. “You can smell it all over, and 
I don’t see why New York has any right to dump their shit on us," 
one woman said angrily. Another said, “We’ve gotten a lot of aller- 
gies. People who have never had allergies in their lives have come 
up with a bunch of stuff like that.” 67 

Soon after the show aired, Merco filed a lawsuit seeking $33 mil- 
lion in damages from Kaufman and TV Nation's producer, Sony 
Entertainment Pictures, Inc., accusing them of “defamatory and dis- 
paraging statements . . . made with actual malice and a reckless 
disregard for the truth.” The lawsuit complained that Merco had spent 
about $600,000 in direct public relations efforts to establish good will 
in Texas, half of which had been lost as a result of the program. 
Hugh Kaufman counter-sued for $3 million, accusing Merco of ties 
to organized crime, violating Texas and New York laws and inter- 
fering with a federal investigation. 68 

In the past, Kaufman has blown the whistle on toxic contamina- 
tions of Love Canal and Times Beach, Missouri. Under the Reagan 
administration, he took on EPA Administrator Anne Burford, who 
was forced to resign after being found in contempt of Congress for 
not turning over documents. Burford’s assistant administrator, Rita 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


Lavelle, served four months in jail for lying to Congress about divert- 
ing superfund money for political purposes. 

“This issue is much bigger,” Kaufman said, “because this is 
obstructing a criminal investigation of companies affiliated with 
organized crime involved in the illegal disposal of waste with an ille- 
gal contract at great taxpayer expense. The Burford-Lavelle thing was 
just using superfund for political shenanigans — determining which 
site would be cleaned up or not cleaned up based on politics.” 

In Sierra Blanca, Kaufman said, “We’re talking about government 
basically taking a dive for organized crime during an open criminal 

Victimless Grime? 

Chemicals, pesticides, acids, heavy metals, radioactivity — to some 
extent these risks can be quantified. However, assessing the health 
threat from the human disease pathogens inhabiting sewage sludge 
defies the capabilities of current science. This is especially true given 
the ability of mutating microbes to withstand antibiotics, and grow- 
ing concerns over newly emerging diseases such as ebola virus, mad 
cow disease, killer e-coli and hanta virus. 

In 1993, a team of researchers at the University of Arizona pub- 
lished an article titled “Hazards from Pathogenic Microorganisms in 
Land-Disposed Sewage Sludge.” Their study found that “significant 
numbers” of dangerous human disease organisms infect even treated 
sewage sludge. “Thus, no assessment of the risks associated with the 
land application of sewage sludge can ever be considered to be com- 
plete when dealing with microorganisms.” 70 

The viruses, bacteria, protozoa, fungi and intestinal worms present 
in sewage and sludge is mindboggling. Many of the pathogens cause 
diseases that sicken, cripple and kill humans including salmonella, 
shigella, Campylobacter, e-coli. enteroviruses (which cause paraly- 
sis, meningitis, fever, respiratory illness, diarrhea, encephalitis), 
giardia, Cryptosporidium, roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm. 
Sludge pathogens can move through many environmental pathways 
— direct contact with sludge, evaporation and inhalation, contami- 
nated groundwater, contamination of rodents burrowing in sludge, 
and uptake through the roots of crops . 71 

Already, victims have begun to emerge. In Islip, New York, 25- 
year-old Harry Dobin ran a coffee truck at a Long Island Railroad 
station 1000 feet away from a sludge composting site. In July 1991 
he began suffering health problems. Doctors treated him for asthma. 



arthritis, Weggener’s disease, Lyme disease, kidney disorder and 
bronchitis. Finally in January 1992 when he could no longer breathe, 
they performed a lung biopsy and discovered Aspergillus fumigatus, 
a common byproduct of sludge composting. By the time the disease 
was diagnosed, it was unstoppable, spreading to his spine, his legs, 
and finally his heart, leading to his death on September 23, 1992. 72 
Other residents of Islip complained of chronic coughing, nausea and 
other reactions. A study by the state Department of Health found 
that neighborhoods downwind of the composting plant had four 
times the average background level of Aspergillus. State officials con- 
cluded that “the study did not find that the higher concentration of 
mold spores increased health problems . . . [but] such a connection 
might, in fact, be present . . . further study was needed to come to 
a definitive conclusion.” 73 

Outside Sparta, Missouri, a tiny rural town whose sewage plant 
began operations in tire late 1980s, dairy farmer Ed Roller began hav- 
ing problems with his cows in 1990. They were falling sick and dying, 
and no veterinarian or university scientists could tell him why. Tire 
death and disease continued until late 1993 when the farm declared 
bankruptcy. Someone suggested to Roller that his cows could be vic- 
tims of sludge which was dumped on a nearby field in 1989-1991, 
and suggested he read journalist Ed Haag’s articles on the topic which 
had recently appeared in wo farm magazines. 

Eventually Roller initiated scientific soil tests. “We found lots of 
heavy metal contaminants. The field where the sludge was dumped 
ran into our fields.” They tested a dead cow and found “lead, 
cadmium, fluoride in the liver, kidneys, bones and teeth.” Roller hired 
an attorney. His situation is especially difficult because the landowner 
who accepted the sludge is a public official in Sparta, and sits on 
the board of Roller’s bank. As of 1995, the Roller case was still pend- 
ing, and Ed’s father was experiencing health problems suspected to 
result from his exposure to sludge. 

“I can’t believe what’s happening,” Roller said. “There are very 
few places to turn. ... I don’t want a government agency to cover 
this up.” 74 

In Lynden, Washington, dairy farmers Linda and Raymond Zander 
began to lose cows a year after sludge was spread on an adjoining 
fann. “We noticed . . . lameness and other malfunctions,” said Linda 
Zander. Tests found heavy metals in soils at the sludge disposal 
site and in water from two neighborhood wells that serve several 
families. Since then, Raymond Zander has been diagnosed with 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 


nickel poisoning, and several family members show signs of neu- 
rological damage which they believe is linked to heavy metal poi- 
soning including zinc, copper, lead and manganese. Sixteen 
neighboring families have experienced health problems ranging from 
flu symptoms to cancer. Linda Zander formed an organization called 
“Help for Sewage Victims," and began to hear similar stories of sick- 
ness and death from farmers near sludge sites in Virginia, Pennsyl- 
vania, North Carolina, Georgia and other parts of the country. 

Sludge is often marketed to farmers as “free fertilizer,” but envi- 
ronmental consultant Susan Cook, who tested the Zanders’ water 
supply, warned that “farmers may be happy initially but the prob- 
lems don’t show up overnight. It was nearly two years before Ray 
and Linda realized what was happening.” 75 

In fact, says toxicology professor Karl Schurr of the University of 
Minnesota, “some of the same chemicals found in sewage sludge 
were also employed by Cesare Borgia and his sister Lucrezia Borgia 
in Italy during the 1400s to very slowly poison their opponents.” 76 

Let Them Eat Cake 

As horror stories like these have begun to leak out, advocates of 
sludge farming are responding. “There is no doubt, among sludge 
scientists in general, that their long and arduous efforts to convince 
society of the safety of sludge have been set back a few years,” wrote 
Gene Logsdon in BioCycle magazine. “One good effect ... is that it 
should become easier ... to get funds to mount education programs.” 
Logsdon advocated “funding a road show” starring scientist-advo- 
cates like Terry Logan “and a star-studded supporting cast of waste- 
water treatment plant operators. Put another way, this is a job for a 
creative advertising agency. If the nuclear industry can convince the 
public that ‘nuclear energy means clear air,' then improving the image 
of sludge would be, pardon the pun, a piece of cake.” 77 

As we go to press, the “biosolids” PR blitz is picking up steam. 
The Water Environment Federation met in July 1995 to examine the 
“public debate on biosolids recycling in all parts of North America 
. . . critique local media footage . . . share special strategies, tactics, 
and materials developed for targeting specific audiences and ana- 
lyze their region’s successes and failures.” Sludge newsletter reported 
that Charlotte Newton of Powell Tate PR, whose finn has received 
EPA tax dollars to push sludge farming, advocated getting tough with 
opponents. “Attack them in a way that does not demonize them. . . . 
You can’t play to those who act weirdest,” she recommended. 78 



One measure of the success of the WEF’s "Biosolids Public Accep- 
tance Campaign” is that major food companies and associations are 
reversing their long-standing opposition to sewage sludge. Until 
recently, for instance, the National Food Processors Association — 
the main lobby group representing the food industry, with members 
such as Del Monte, Heinz and Nestle — strongly opposed accepting 
and selling sludge-grown fruits and vegetables. In the wake of the 
PR blitz from WEF and EPA, that opposition is waning. 

In 1992 the tomato and ketchup conglomerate Heinz responded 
to a consumer inquiry about sludge by writing, “Heinz Company feels 
the risk of utilizing municipal sludge, which is known to be high in 
heavy metals such as cadmium and lead, is not a health risk which 
we need to take. Root crops such as potatoes, carrots and other veg- 
etables which are grown under the ground can take up unaccept- 
able high levels of heavy metals. ... It should be noted that once 
the lead levels are present in the soil they stay there for an indefi- 
nite period of time. . . . We have at times dropped suppliers who 
have used the municipal sludge on their crop land.” 79 

In 1995, however, a Heinz representative said they were reconsid- 
ering their policy. Other companies are following suit. Chris Meyers, 
a PR representative for the huge Del Monte company, explained that 
his company’s “long-standing position ... to avoid using raw agri- 
cultural products grown on soils treated with municipal sludge” was 
likely to change. “The EPA has asked the National Academy of 
Sciences (NAS) to conduct an extensive study of the outstanding 
safety issues. Del Monte is an active supporter of this study, which 
we hope will facilitate sludge use in the future.” 80 

Once “biosolids” are accepted as a crop fertilizer, the powerful 
National Food Processors Association lobby will “strongly oppose” 
any labeling of food grown on sludge land. According to NFPA rep- 
resentative Rick Jarman, consumers don’t need to know whether their 
food has been grown in sludge. 81 

Currently, “certified organic” farmers are prohibited from using 
sludge on their crops, but the sludge industry is pushing for accep- 
tance by organic farming organizations, and this will be a battle- 
ground for industry' PR in the future. The amount of farm acreage 
dedicated to organic farming is currently very small. However, said 
Brian Baker of California Certified Organic Farmers, “imagine what 
great PR it would be for the sewage sludge promoters to say that 
sludge is so clean it can even be certified organic — what a way to 
‘greenwash’ sewage sludge!’’ 82 


SilENciNq SpRiNq 

The big corporations, our clients, are scared shitless of the environ- 
mental movement. . . . The corporations are wrong about that. 1 think 
the companies will have to give in only at insignificant levels. Because 
the companies are too strong, they’re the establishment. The envi- 
ronmentalists are going to have to be like the mob in the square in 
Rumania before they prevail. 

Vice-Chairman, Hill & Knowlton PR 

More than any other modern American, author Rachel Carson is 
credited with giving birth Ur populist ecological awareness. Silent 
Spring, her bombshell 1962 best-seller, gave a dramatic, prophetic 
and factual account of massive agrichemical poisoning from the 
chemical industry’s sales ($300 million a year in 1962) of DDT, 
lindane, heptachlor and other dangerous toxins. 1 Written with the 
goal of shocking the public, government and industry into action, it 
sowed seeds of consciousness that burst forth eight years later when 
some twenty million Americans interrupted their “business as usual" 
to participate in the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970 — a day of protests, 
marches, rallies, concerts and teach-ins on the environmental crises 
wrought by industrialism. After years of public activism, DDT and 
other chemicals that Carson warned about were banned or restricted 
from use within the United States. 

Silent Spring also created a crisis — a PR crisis — for the powerful 
agricultural chemical industry which had emerged after World War II 
based in large part on the military’s widespread use of DDT and its 
development of 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T herbicides. The agrichemical indus- 
try hit back at Carson with the PR equivalent of a prolonged carpet 




bombing campaign. Even before her book was published, Velsicol 
chemical company tried unsuccessfully to intimidate its publisher into 
changing it or canceling publication. The National Agricultural Chem- 
ical Association doubled its PR budget and distributed thousands of 
book reviews trashing Silent Spring. 2 Monsanto chemical company 
published The Desolate Year, a parody in which failure to use pesti- 
cides causes a plague of insects that devastate America. About 5,000 
copies were sent out to book reviewers, science and gardening writ- 
ers, magazine editors and farm journalists. The argument was picked 
up by Walter Sullivan of the New York Times, who wrote, “By stat- 
ing her case so one-sidedly, Rachel Carson forfeits persuasiveness. 

. . . She also lays herself open to parody. Some unsung hero of 
the chemical industry has written for Monsanto magazine an article 
entitled, The Desolate Year." 5 

A rising young PR executive named E. Bruce Harrison was 
appointed “manager of environmental information” for the manu- 
facturers of agricultural pesticides. He was assigned to coordinate 
and conduct the industry's attack on the book. In their campaign to 
discredit Carson, Harrison and his cohorts used “crisis management” 
including emotional appeals, scientific misinformation, front groups, 
extensive mailings to the media and opinion leaders, and the recruit- 
ment of doctors and scientists as “objective" third party defenders of 

Today, agrichemical poisoning of our soil, wind, water, food and 
bodies is a worldwide environmental health threat. Supermarket 
surveys find that most foods in the US are routinely contaminated 
with one or more pesticide residues, and in Third World countries the 
use of dangerous chemicals is even more widespread. The US ban on 
DDT hasn’t stopped it from being manufactured and used elsewhere, 
and global use is now at an all-time high. Everyone on the planet 
has scores of pesticides and other chemical contaminants stored in 
body fat and organs, a toxic biological cocktail whose full conse- 
quences are as yet unknown. Evidence is emerging that DDT and 
other organochlorine pesticides mimic hormones, triggering sexual 
and physiological abnormalities in humans and animals. - * 

Rachel Carson succumbed to cancer on April 14, 1964, never 
seeing herself venerated as the founder of modem environ- 
mentalism. However, her old nemesis E. Bruce Harrison is alive and 
thriving. He even has his own book out, a PR how-to guide titled 
Going Green: How to Communicate Your Company’s Environmen- 
tal Commitment . 5 

Silencing Spring 


Going, Going Greenwash 

In 1973 Harrison established his own PR company, drawing in clients 
such as Monsanto and Dow Chemical, who were among the spon- 
sors of the campaign against Silent Spring. In 1990 he declared “green 
PR” to be the sole specialty of his firm, and in 1993 The PR trade 
publication Inside PR named him a “PR All Star.” His award stated 
that by writing Going Green Harrison had “confirmed his status as 
the leading [PR] thinker on environmental issues” and as a continu- 
ing “pioneer in die field.” 6 

The E. Bruce Harrison Company now has offices in DC, Dallas, 
Austin, New York, and San Francisco, and recently opened a new 
office in Brussels, Belgium that will, in the words of Inside PR, “help 
its transnational clients work through the complexity” of Europe’s 
new environmental regulations. The company employs more than 
50 staff and nets $6.5 million dollars annually working for about 80 
of the world’s largest corporations and associations, including Coors, 
Clorox, R.J. Reynolds, the American Medical Association and Vista 
Chemical. Harrison’s clients include corporate front groups like the 
Global Climate Coalition (which opposes environmental action to 
prevent global warming) and the Coalition for Vehicle Choice (which 
opposes emission-control regulations for automobile manufacturers). 7 
He has even received taxpayer funding from one of his clients, the 
federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 8 

In the perverse world of corporate public relations, propagandiz- 
ing and lobbying Agam.# environmental protection is called “environ- 
mental” or “green” PR. “Greenwashing” is a more accurate pejorative 
now commonly used to describe the ways that polluters employ 
deceptive PR to falsely paint themselves an environmentally respon- 
sible public image, while covering up their abuses of the biosphere 
and public health. In the years since the publication of Silent Spring, 
corporate public relations experts have learned how to tame and turn 
aside the activism that it spawned. Today a virulent, pro-industry, 
aw/i-environmentalism is on the rise, propelled by some of the same 
industries and PR practitioners who battled Rachel Carson. PR 
experts — at Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum, Shandwick, Bruce Harrison 
and other firms — are waging and winning a war against environ- 
mentalists on behalf of corporate clients in the chemical, energy, 
food, automobile, forestry and mining industries. 

US businesses spend an estimated $1 billion a year on the sendees 
of anti-environmental PR professionals and on “greenwashing” their 
corporate image. 9 O Dwyer’s PR Services termed the environmental 



struggle “the life and death PR battle of the 1990s.” 10 It is a battle 
that is being waged on many fronts: television, the printed press, 
grade school classrooms, community meeting halls, the boards of 
directors of mainstream environmental groups, journalism confer- 
ences, and talk radio. 

The PR industry’s strategy for pacifying the environmental move- 
ment reflects its well-researched understanding of public opinion in 
the United States. Polls indicate that the vast majority of people today 
believe that human actions are damaging the natural environment 
they live in. Market researchers say that somewhere between 75 per- 
cent to 95 percent of US citizens consider themselves to be “green.” 
More than 20 million Americans translate these concerns into con- 
tributions of time and money to environmental organizations. 

Public opinion contrasts strongly with that of corporate execu- 
tives. According to a survey by E. Bruce Harrison, 99-9 (!) percent 
of business executives agree with the statement: “Overall, the qual- 
ity of the environment in your country is improving.” Obviously 
business leaders are a minority whose opinions run contrary to the 
mainstream of American thought, but they are able to determine 
government policy thanks to a carefully-planned, long-term strategy. 
Harrison says “top management” realizes that the vast majority of 
green Americans are “disconnected” from environmental reality, but 
communications specialists can now “quantify the sources of mis- 
perceptions that need to be addressed.” 11 

Good Cop/Bad Cop 

"Environmental PR” seeks to fix these “misperceptions” by convinc- 
ing the public that ecological crises don’t exist, that corporations are 
really protecting and improving the natural environment, and 
that environmental activists who criticize and attack industry are 
“eco-terrorists,” fear mongers, and the latest incarnation of the com- 
munist menace. Over the past decades anti-environmental PR prac- 
titioners have refined a combination of “good cop, bad cop” 
techniques — a two-pronged strategy that skillfully creates and 
exploits divisions within the environmental movement. This strategy 
of “divide and conquer” coopts and compromises mainstream envi- 
ronmental organizations, while simultaneously orchestrating extrem- 
ist attacks against grassroots activists and others not willing to 
“behave respectably” in exchange for industry cash. 

On the one hand, the “good cop” strategy seeks to create “partner- 
ships” between businesses and environmental groups for mutual 

Silencing Spring 


image-building and financial profit. On the other hand, “bad cop" 
tactics include smear campaigns, lawsuits, and the creation of astro- 
turf pro-industry groups that foment hatred and physical harassment 
of green activists. 

The anti-environmental campaign is most obvious in the fringe 
activities of radical right-wing organizations calling themselves the 
"Wise Use” movement. Supported by corporate sponsors, Wise Use 
is loudly agitating against laws and regulations that constrain the ram- 
pant exploitation of natural resources. The Wise Use movement and 
its allies have few scruples about using slanders and misleading infor- 
mation to discredit environmentalists. According to Rush Limbaugh, 
“Environmentalists fall into two categories, socialists and enviro-reli- 
gious fanatics.” 12 To discredit environmentalists, Hill & Knowlton PR 
distributed a phony memo on Earth First! letterhead, calling for acts 
of violence “to fuck up the mega machine.” 13 Kathleen Marquardt 
of Putting People First was awarded “best newcomer” at the 1992 
Wise Use Leadership Conference. Upon accepting her award, Mar- 
quardt said: “Here is our enemy — the Sierra Club, the Nature Conser- 
vancy, the Humane Society.” According to Marquardt, the Humane 
Society is a “radical animal rights cult ... a front for a neo-pagan 
cult that is attacking science, health and reason.” 14 

Industry’s “good cop/bad cop” strategy explains why many of 
the same companies that are funding rmh-environmental extremists 
are also pouring money into mainstream environmental groups. Joe 
Lyford, Jr. repons in Propaganda Review that corporate sponsors of 
the World Wildlife Fund, Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, 
Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund, 
Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation also funded about 
one-quaner of the 37 organizations described in the Greenpeace 
Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations . 15 Frank Boren, former 
president of the Nature Conservancy and a board member of ARCO 
Petroleum, advocates corporate cooptation of mainstream environ- 
mental organizations. As he told his colleagues, “One good thing 
about that is that while we’re working with them, they don’t have 
time to sue us.” 16 

Company collaborations with environmental groups provide 
another benefit to corporate PR professionals: the opportunity to 
glean valuable knowledge from green critics of the companies they 
represent. “Companies must have some vehicle for knowing what 
the intelligent public thinks about their products and processes,” says 
Joanna Underwood, president of the New York-based INFORM, an 



environmental research organization. “If they want to understand 
sophisticated outside views of environmental issues affecting their 
companies, they would do well to have someone in the room."' 7 

Green Backers 

In Going Green, E. Bruce Harrison declares that environmental 
activism is dead and that its death presents an opportunity to redefine 
environmentalism in pro-business ways. The “activist movement that 
began in the early 1960s, roughly when the use of pesticides was 
attacked in the book Silent Spring, . . . succumbed to success over 
a period roughly covering the last 15 years." 18 

As defined by Harrison, “success” boils down to money and access 
to power in the nation’s capitol. After the first Eaith Day in 1970, 
Harrison points out, ecological activism transformed itself from a pop- 
ular grassroots movement into competing, professionally-ain non- 
profit enterprises — a multi-million dollar environmental bureaucracy, 
maintaining expensive offices in downtown Washington and 
divorced from its activist roots and any meaningful grassroots 
accountability. The executive directors of the big eco-lobbies com- 
mand six-figure salaries. The mainstream environmental organiza- 
tions are tightly run by boards which more and more include 
representatives from Fortune 500 companies, including PR firms. 
These green groups have turned their back on their local support- 
ers, who are little more than recipients of cleverly worded junk mail 
funding appeals. 

Going Green says that despite their formal nonprofit status, today’s 
big environmental groups are first and foremost business ventures. 
Harrison advises his PR clients that the green groups primarily want 
to “stay in the greening business,” and that their real goal “is not to 
green, but to ensure the wherewithal that enable it to green." The 
managers of the big green groups are primarily concerned with rais- 
ing money from individuals, foundations and increasingly from cor- 
porations. To do so they have chosen to maintain a “respectable” 
public image and are very willing to sit down with industry PR exec- 
utives to cut deals. This puts the mainstream environmental groups 
right where industry wants them, in a position to be compromised 
through industry partnerships and funding. 

Some of the biggest and best-known green organizations — the 
Izaak Walton League, the National Wildlife Federation, and the 
National Audubon Society among them — are receiving support, 
recognition and large cash contributions from corporate polluters. 

Silencing Spring 


In exchange, the corporate benefactors have been able to buy a 
green image that is worth literally millions in the consumer market- 
place. Harrison’s PR firm spends much of its time helping its For- 
tune 500 clientele to build issue coalitions, partnerships and 
alliances with carefully chosen pro-business environmentalists. 

Package Deals 

As an example of an ideal partnership, E. Bruce Harrison points to 
the marriage between McDonald’s restaurants and the Environmen- 
tal Defense Fund (EDF). After the Citizens Clearinghouse on Haz- 
ardous Waste organized a national grassroots campaign against 
McDonald’s use of plastic foam containers, EDF Executive Director 
Fred Krupp barged in, negotiated a highly-publicized settlement, and 
began an ongoing “partnership” with the fast-food behemoth. Krupp 
gained a “victory" which the EDF highlights prominently in its 
fundraising activities. Bragging about this achievement helped EDF 
raise over $17 million dollars in 1993, and pay Fred Krupp his salary 
and benefit package worth more than $200,000 a year. 19 

Harrison provides a bottom-line assessment of the deal: “In the 
late 1980s, the company slipped into its worst sales slump ever — 
and the anti-McDonald’s drive of the [grassroots] green activists was 
at least partly blamed. . . . Krupp saw the golden arches of McDon- 
ald’s, the nation’s fast food marketing king, as a sign of opportunity. 

. . . Krupp was ready to deal, and so was McDonald’s.” 20 

EDF’s mission, Krupp said, is not to attack corporations but “to 
get environmental results.” He told the New York Times , “Being will- 
ing to consider new ways to regulate and being willing to talk with 
business in a businesslike way is not the same as being in favor of 
halfway compromises.” 21 

The main beneficiary of the agreement, however, has been 
McDonald’s, which saw its environmental reputation soar. Opinion 
polls now give McDonald’s one of the highest environmental ratings 
of any US corporation. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Earth 
Day in 1995, McDonald’s announced that the fast-food giant would 
be printing recycling messages on millions of its bags and cups. EDF 
assists McDonald's in fooling the public into believing that some- 
thing significant has occurred. 22 

Meanwhile, McDonald's remains a massive corporate polluter. It 
continues to hire and underpay an unorganized work force that sells 
greasy, fatty food grown with pesticides on factory farms, sold by an 
international franchise that destroys community economic diversity, 



advertised with billions of dollars that target children using bigger- 
than-life millionaire sports celebrities. When a tiny group of London 
environmental activists had the audacity to leaflet McDonald’s and 
publicly criticize its destructive policies, the fast food giant sued them 
under Britain's reactionary libel laws to prevent even this small men- 
tion of the truth from undermining the company’s cultivated image . 23 

In Losing Ground, author Mark Dowie cites the EDF-McDonald’s 
arrangement as an example of “high-level capitulations” which unfor- 
tunately “allow companies like McDonald’s to look a lot greener than 
they are. The corporate exploitation of so-called 'win/win' compro- 
mises has been relentless. Companies compete through paid and free 
media to out-green one another. That, of course, is life on the cor- 
porate food chain; it’s predictable and understandable. But the envi- 
ronmentalists’ complicity and their own PR-driven tendency to turn 
compromise into false triumph illuminates the desperation and 
impending moral crisis of the mainstream organizations .” 2 ' 1 

At the grassroots level, meanwhile, thousands of citizens are 
engaged in genuine environmental activism, facing off in their com- 
munities against the waste dumpers, wanton developers and pesti- 
cide pushers. These grassroots activists are being left high and dry 
by the big green groups, which soak up almost all the environmental 
money from green philanthropists and small donors alike, while pro- 
viding little or no support to the legitimate footsoldiers of the envi- 
ronmental movement. 

Big green operations like EDF claim that the best way to be effec- 
tive is to look for common ground with businesses and eschew the 
politics of citizen empowerment and confrontation. According to Har- 
rison, however, the aggressive tactics of grassroots activists are the 
greens' strongest weapons. Harrison writes that “Greening and 
the public-policy impact of greenism are being propelled by what I 
refer to as the 'AMP Syndrome’ — a synergy of Activists + Media + 
Politicians. . . . Activists stir up conflict, naming ‘victims’ (various peo- 
ple or public sectors) and ‘villains’ (very often, business interests). 
The news media respond to conflict and publicize it. Politicians 
respond to media and issues, moving to protect ‘victims’ and punish 
'villains’ with legislative and regulatory actions .” 25 

The Good Guys Guise 

“There has recently been a spurt of corporate advertising about how 
corporations work to clean the environment,” writes Jerry Mander, 
author of In the Absence of the Sacred. “In fact, it is a fair rule of 

Silencing Spring 


thumb that corporations will tend to advertise the very qualities they 
do not have, in order to allay a negative public perception. When 
corporations say ‘we care,’ it is almost always in response to the wide- 
spread perception that they do riot care.” 26 

Some of the industrial polluters with the worst records have 
devised “public education” campaigns that enable them to placate 
the public while they continue polluting. The agrichemical con- 
glomerate Monsanto, for example, has given away hundreds of 
gallons of its Round-Up™ herbicide through “Spontaneous Weed 
Attack Teams" (SWAT) for spraying in inner-city neighborhoods to 
make them “cleaner and safer places to live.” Monsanto’s PR also 
touts Round-Up™ as a boon to endangered species, pointing out 
that the herbicide “is used in Kenya, Africa, to keep grasses from short 
circuiting electric fences that protect the endangered black rhino." 27 

Dow Chemical’s environmental PR campaign began in 1984 with 
the goal of making “Dow a more highly regarded company among 
the people who can influence its future.” Dow’s reputation was still 
suffering from its manufacture of napalm bombs and Agent Orange 
defoliants that devastated much of Vietnam. The company mailed 
glossy “Public Interest Reports" to 60,000 opinion makers: scientists, 
the media, legislators, regulators, employers, customers and aca- 
demics. Illustrated with numerous high-quality photographs, the 
“Public Interest Reports” touted Dow’s programs in the area of envi- 
ronment and five other “good works” categories. 28 

In 1986 a poll by the Washington Journalism Review found that 
business editors rated Dow’s PR efforts tops among Fortune 500 
chemical companies. As a member of the Chemical Manufacturers 
Association, Dow participates in Responsible Care, a PR program 
where each chemical company evaluates its own environmental per- 
formance. Its advertising slogan reinforces the message: “Dow helps 
you do great things.” As a result of this systematic campaign, Amer- 
ican Demographics listed Dow in 1993 as one of the 10 US firms 
with the best environmental reputations among consumers. 29 

“Many people use [Dow] as an example of doing the right filing. 
There is hardly a discussion of pollution control and prevention 
among American industries that fails to highlight Dow and the strides 
it has made,” writes Jenni Laidman in the Bay City Times of Sagi- 
naw, MI. Laidman notes that Dow garners all this praise even though 
the company “is still a leading polluter in the state and the nation. 

. . . fish caught downstream from Midland [Dow’s home base in 
Michigan] remain inedible, according to state fish advisories." 30 



Sometimes a change of name is all it takes to improve a com- 
pany’s image. Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste disposal 
company, has paid an estimated $45 million since 1980 for admit- 
ted and alleged violations of environmental laws. Recently the com- 
pany changed its name to WMX, Inc., and began advertising itself 
as a provider of “environmental services.” 

In addition to coopting environmental moderates, corporate PR 
firms are helping companies set up “community advisory panels” 
(CAPs) to strengthen their image in neighborhoods that host indus- 
trial facilities. Dow Chemical is one of the companies that has pio- 
neered the establishment of CAPs. “I would give it three years and 
you’ll see [CAPs] all around. They will be an integral part of doing 
business in all major industries,” said A.J. Grant, president of Environ- 
mental Communication Associates in Boulder, Colorado. “You’ve got 
to have a marketing department, you’ve got to have accounting, and 
you’ll have to have community interaction in the form of a CAP.” 31 

According to Joel Makower, editor of The Green Business Letter, 
CAPs “differ in makeup, style, and function,” but “a typical CAP 
consists of 12 to 15 people, including activists, homemakers, com- 
munity leaders — a representative sampling of just plain folks — as well 
as company representatives.” CAPs create a forum for dialogue 
between the company and the community, but the nature of the dia- 
logue is carefully modulated to emphasize emotions and image-shap- 
ing rather than issues of substance. 

As an example of their PR effectiveness, Makower relates the fol- 
lowing anecdote: “Members of one CAP, unbeknownst to the com- 
pany, appeared voluntarily before a local hearing to testify why the 
company should be allowed to site an incinerator in their backyard. 
You can’t buy that kind of help at any price.” 32 

Shifting the Blame 

If corporations are not despoiling our natural environment, then who 
is to blame? According to corporate-sponsored PR campaigns, the 
answer is obvious. You are. In place of systemic analysis and sys- 
temic solutions to social problems, they offer an individualistic and 
deeply hypocritical analysis in which “all of us” are to blame for our 
collective “irresponsibility." If we would all just pick up after our- 
selves, they nag, the problems would go away. 

Gregg Easterbrook, the author of A Moment on the Earth, con- 
cludes that the acts of individuals are the root of many environmental 
problems. He wrote in the New York Times magazine, “Though 

Silencing Spring 


environmental orthodoxy holds that Third World deforestation is 
caused by rapacious clear-cutters and ruthless cattle barons, penni- 
less peasants seeking fuel wood may be the greatest threat to our 
forests.” 33 He conveniently fails to mention that “penniless peasants” 
are forced to colonize rainforests and cut down trees for firewood 
after being driven from their traditional lands by “rapacious clear- 
cutters and ruthless cattle barons.” 

In the US, the Keep America Beautiful campaign (KAB) is indus- 
try’s most organized proponent of the belief that individual 
irresponsibility' is at the root of pollution. About 200 companies, 
including McDonald’s, fund KAB to the tune of $2 million a year. 
According to the Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organi- 
zations, most of the companies that support KAB “manufacture and 
distribute aluminum cans, paper products, glass bottles and plastics 
that account for about a third of the material in US landfills.” KAB’s 
message to consumers is that they are responsible for this trash, and 
that they must solve this problem by changing their habits. 33 

Since the early 1970s, Greenpeace reports, KAB has used more 
than half a billion dollars worth of donated advertising time and 
space to encourage guilty consumers to “put litter in its place.” Of 
course, since the responsibility for litter rests with individuals, KAB 
leadership strongly opposes a national bottle bill that would place a 
deposit on glass and metal drink containers. In effect, KAB is a PR 
front group for industries that refuse to be responsible for the trash 
they generate in the course of doing business. 35 

The Selling of Earth Day 

On April 22, 1995, the major Washington-based environmental orga- 
nizations celebrated Earth Day’s 25th anniversary with a celebrity- 
studded free concert in the national capital. In the intervening quarter 
century these groups had raised and spent billions of dollars in pur- 
suit of environmental reform initiatives. In the White House they had 
as Vice-President A] Gore, a mainstream environmental leader with 
a best selling book of his own to prove it. In the countryside opinion 
surveys consistently indicated that a solid majority of Americans 
strongly supported environmental protection initiatives. 

Despite these trappings of accomplishment, the 25th anniversary 
celebration was a hollow shell of the once vigorous environmental 
movement. Rather than stimulating a new wave of activism, it drama- 
tized the failure of its national leaders and their policies of “com- 
promise and respectability.” 


The first Earth Day in 1970 began when Wisconsin Senator Gay- 
lord Nelson, a staunch conservationist, borrowed the idea for a 
student environmental teach-in from the tactics of anti-war organiz- 
ers. Nobody owned the first Earth Day; the marches, demonstrations 
and protests mushroomed almost spontaneously, manifesting the 
power of aggressive, 1960s-style activism. Many of its organizers saw 
the common systemic roots of both the war against Vietnam and 
ecological destruction. Denis Hayes, a national student coordinator, 
spoke passionately to the first Washington, DC, Earth Day rally: “Our 
country is stealing from poorer nations and from generations yet 
unborn. . . . We’re tired of being told we are to blame for corporate 
depredations. . . . institutions have no conscience. If we want them 
to do what is right, we must make them do what is right.” 36 

The term “corporate greenwashing” hadn’t yet been coined, but 
the problem already existed. “Political and business leaders once 
hoped that they could turn the environmental movement into a 
massive anti-litter campaign,” shouted Hayes in his historic 
speech. “Industry has turned the environmental problem over to 
its public relations men. . . . We have learned not to believe the 
advertising.” 37 

Two decades later, however, Gaylord Nelson himself helped turn 
Earth Day into a corporate commodity. Since losing his 1986 bid for 
re-election, Nelson has been a lobbyist and consultant with the 
Wilderness Society, a prestigious mainstream environmental group 
that accepts funding from WMX, Archer Daniels Midland and other 
multinationals. 38 In 1991, Nelson and environmental business con- 
sultant Bruce Anderson created an umbrella organization titled “Earth 
Day USA” to orchestrate and fundraise for the event’s 25th anniver- 
sary. Unlike previous Earth Day organizations, however, Anderson 
and Nelson encouraged corporations to buy into their “official” Earth 
Day, without any standards to screen out major corporate polluters. 
Anderson justified this approach by arguing that “we’re all to blame, 
every one of us. If a business says they want to improve their envi- 
ronmental record, it’s not up to Earth Day USA to be the judge and 
jury of their past behavior. Confrontation is the old way. We have 
to work together hand-in-hand, arm-in-ann, or we’re wasting time, 
fiddling while the planet burns.” 39 

Nelson agreed. Greenwashing, he said, is no problem at all, 
“not even on the map. If a corporation is moving to be green, that’s 
just fine. Many of today’s corporate leaders participated in [the first] 
Eaith Day in college; it turned them into environmentalists. I’m glad 

Silencing Spring 


to see corporations joining in. If they try to coopt Earth Day, they'll 
just help spread environmental propaganda.” 40 

Nelson also defended Earth Day USA’s shocking decision to hire 
Shandwick PR — a leading anti-environmental greenwasher — to help 
plan, coordinate and execute the twenty-fifth Earth Day celebration. 
“I have no concerns about that,” Nelson said. “They are a PR firm. 
They represent all kinds of people. Its like hiring a lawyer. If he rep- 
resents a murderer or a crooked businessman, that’s what lawyers 
do. Am I not to hire him?” 41 

Of course, PR firms are not law firms, although practitioners pro- 
mote the comparison to dignify their profession and to rationalize 
their work for unsavory clients. Bruce Anderson made the decision 
to hire Shandwick “at a greatly reduced fee” after a breakfast meet- 
ing in Washington, DC, with company executive Allen Finch. Ander- 
son said he was impressed with Allen Finch’s attitude. “I see [his] 
commitment to Earth Day USA expanding every day. He looks at it 
the same way I do: Earth Day is an incredible gift with a potentially 
tremendous impact.” 42 

No doubt Allen Finch did see Earth Day as a tremendous “gift,” 
much the way a fox would relish managing the chicken coop. Finch’s 
w r ork for Shandwick includes personally representing one of the 
oldest, most notorious anti-environmental front groups, called the 
Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). Founded 
in 1972, CAST is funded by hundreds of companies invested in genet- 
ically-engineered foods, agricultural chemicals, food additives and 
corporate factory fanning, including Dow, General Mills, Land 
O’ Lakes, Ciba-Geigy, Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, Philip 
Morris, and Uniroyal. ' 3 According to O 'Dwyer’s PR Seivices, Alien 
Finch personally works to establish CAST as “the source for public 
policy-makers and news media on environmental issues.” 44 

CAST is a classic industry front group claiming “to provide cur- 
rent, unbiased scientific information concerning food and agricul- 
ture.” In fact, for over two decades CAST has vigorously and publicly 
defended and promoted pesticide-contaminated foods, irradiated 
fruits and vegetables, and the use of hormones and drugs on farm 
animals. The hundreds of industry and university researchers who 
belong to CAST are often on the receiving end of large grants and 
other payments from the same agribusiness corporations that subsi- 
dize CAST. 

When Earth Day USA hired Shandwick, its other PR clients 
included Ciba-Geigy, Chase Manhattan Bank, Ford Motor Company, 



Hydro-Quebec, Monsanto, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Purina Mills, 
and Sumitomo Bank. Shandwick’s net receipts totalled over $11 mil- 
lion in 1992 for “environmental public affairs services.” 45 As an 
example of these services, Shandwick cites its success in helping the 
Western Livestock Producers Alliance “win its battle against raising 
grazing fees on public lands” — handing the environmental move- 
ment one of the biggest defeats it suffered in the 103rd Congress.' 6 

In 1994 Shandwick PR claimed that “we’re helping companies . . . 
maximize green market opportunities, mitigate environmental risks 
and protect the bottom line,” with “access to the corridors of pow'er 
at the federal level and every state capital, local business commu- 
nity and newsroom.” 47 

With Allen Finch on board, Earth Day USA began meeting with 
the Clinton White House and various corporations to make April 22, 
1995, the biggest eco-publicity blast of all time, with a prominent 
role for corporate contributors. What about decisions by previous 
national Earth Day groups to screen large corporate contributions? 
According to board member Jerry Klamon, that approach was passe. 
“We would work with companies others probably wouldn’t, because 
we see the need for the ‘carrot’ approach. These companies need 
to be nurtured and brought along.” Klamon’s St. Louis group 
accepted funding from Monsanto, and relied on the donated PR work 
of Allen Finch’s St. Louis affiliate. “We need to use tactics that people 
are habituated to following,” Klamon said. “These PR people are 
obviously good at penetrating the American consciousness.” 48 

Earth Day USA raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from busi- 
nesses, including clients of Allen Finch’s PR firm. Gifts of $15,000 or 
more came from Procter & Gamble, Honeywell, Ralston Purina, 
Kinkos, Pillsbury and AT&T. 49 For $20,000 a company could become 
an Earth Day USA sponsor. Further negotiations could buy per- 
mission to use the official Earth Day USA logo. An internal Earth 
Day USA memo contemplated the spin-off of a second organization 
called “the Earth Day Coiporate Team,” consisting of “environmen- 
tal leaders within corporations in the United States . . . organized 
as a separate nonprofit corporation,” but with its board of directors 
dominated by the leaders of Earth Day USA. The Team would 
“enhance the fundraising opportunities for Earth Day USA and the 
other members of the Earth Day Family.” To protect its own image, 
Earth Day USA would “retain some independence from its corpo- 
rate arm to preserve the innocence and inclusiveness of the Earth 
Day spirit." 50 

Silencing Spring 


In the end, the “inclusive,” pro-corporate strategy of Finch, Ander- 
son and Nelson fell apart when media coverage disclosed the cor- 
porate greenwashing behind Earth Day USA. Unwanted publicity led 
to internal dissension and the eventual breakup of the organization’s 
board of directors. Efforts to involve the Clinton White House in rais- 
ing millions of dollars from corporations to fund a huge event on 
die DC mall also fell apart under reporters’ scrutiny. 51 

Begging for Mercy 

The whimpering demise of Earth Day USA epitomized the crisis that 
had come over the environmental movement by 1995. The “good 
cop” strategy of lulling environmentalists to sleep had proven a 
smashing success. With the election of a Republican majority in Con- 
gress, the national green organizations found themselves effectively 
cut out of the loop, just another remnant of a dying liberalism. The 
new Congress moved quickly to eviscerate the past legislation and 
regulations that had been the green lobbies’ major accomplishments. 
The professional environmental lobbyists — cut off from the grass- 
roots they had abandoned — were unable to turn up any significant 
heat on legislators. In desperation, some environmentalists drafted 
a pleading petition addressed to the political architect of their demise, 
former professor of environmentalism Newt Gingrich. 52 



In fact, the corporate victory was so complete that the public rela- 
tions industry was quietly advising its corporate clients to refrain from 
gloating. The February 1995 issue of O'Dwyer’s PR Services said 
“green PR people” should “ride the Republican fueled anti-environ- 
mental backlash wave as far as possible. . . . Green PR pros are sali- 
vating at the chance to prove their worth to clients. They are ready 
to navigate the thicket of regulations in DC, select those most annoy- 
ing to clients, and convince lawmakers to dump them.” But 
O 'Dwyer’s warned, “they should not be greedy because overreach- 
ing may come back to haunt them once the sun sets on the pro- 
business Republicans and greenies are again on the rise.” 53 

Similar advice came from Michael Kehs, head of Burson-Marsteller 
PR's worldwide environmental practice: “Don’t appear greedy by 
complaining how much compliance with green laws costs . . . That 
could jeopardize years of good works and careful coiporate posi- 
tioning. The business community enjoys the upper hand. . . . There 
is a new contract on the street. And although the word ‘environ- 
ment’ is never mentioned, many observers believe it’s less a con- 
tract with America than a ‘contract on environmental busybodies.’ 

. . . There is no better time to extend an olive branch.” 53 

In this milieu, the Earth Day 1995 release of A Moment On The 
Earth: The Coming Age of Environmental Optimism , a 745-page exer- 
cise in sophistry by Gregg Easterbrook, seemed like dirt in the face 
of the losing green lobbyists. 55 "Cancel your plans for doomsday, 
planet earth is alive and well,” screamed the book’s full page New 
York Times advertisement. 56 Easterbrook’s one-sided and factually 
deformed tract promoted his pollyannish doctrine of “ecorealism.” 
While defensively proclaiming himself a liberal and an environ- 
mentalist, he provided the PR greenwashers with their best mani- 
festo to date, written by an “objective” journalist. 57 

Easterbrook’s own mother died of breast cancer after working in 
the notorious Hooker Chemical plant that produced the toxic wastes 
buried at Love Canal, yet A Moment on the Earth claims that all major 
environmental crises are virtually solved or never really existed in 
the first place. It argues that corporate capitalism has embraced envi- 
ronmental and social responsibility and will soon end all pollution, 
and accuses environmentalists of denying these “facts” in order to 
sustain their fear-based fundraising campaigns . 58 

Ironically, Easterbrook’s book was completed just before the anti- 
environmentalists seized Congress and began dismembering the var- 
ious regulations that he claimed had guaranteed an ecological utopia. 

Silencing Spring 


In an Earth Day column in the April 21, 1995 New York Times, Easter- 
brook’s naivete showed as he publicly pleaded with industry to call 
off its lobbyists’ assault on environmental regulations. “Has all 
the apparent progress in the chemical industry been merely a 
public-relations ploy?” Easterbrook wondered with apparently gen- 
uine consternation. 59 

Notwithstanding the advice from O Dwyer's to “avoid overreach- 
ing,” the PR industry was already positioning itself for a no-holds- 
barred assault on the greens — the “bad cop” component of its good 
cop/bad cop strategy. Now solidly in the political driver’s seat, pol- 
luting corporations could relax in their efforts to coopt and partner 
with environmental groups. PR News, an industry publication, 
acknowledged that “since Earth Day more than 20 years ago, a gen- 
eration of PR executives have become accustomed to donning the 
green hat.” But now, it advised, the rise of anti-environmentalism 
“presents an opportunity for PR executives at corporations and firms 
to play the advocate role not for . . . corporate environmentalism,” 
but for the rabidly anti-environmental “Wise Use” groups. 60 

In fact, Hill & Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller, Edelman PR, Shand- 
wick, Fleishman-Hillard, Bruce Harrison and other greenwashers had 
been working for Wise Use all along. But now, they could come out 
of the closet, since their tactics of cooptation had the real greens 
on the run. 

Crafty Alliances 

The Washington Post reported that even a decade ago, Burson- 
Marsteller’s DC office alone had five PR specialists concentrating only 
on designing coalitions for clients. 61 As one PR executive explained 
it, these astroturf coalition designers “are building allies and neu- 
tralizing the opposition.” James Lindheim, Burson-Marsteller’s former 
director of worldwide public affairs, put it this way: “Don’t forget 
that the chemical industry has many friends and allies that can be 
mobilized . . . employees, shareholders, and retirees. Give them the 
songsheets and let them help industry carry the tune.” 62 

Sometimes the public catches on. A group called “Citizens to Pro- 
tect the Pacific Northwest and Northern California Economy" was 
formed in 1993 by timber company executives, who mailed out 1.5 
million form letters asking people to send back a signature card if 
they agreed with the group’s goals. State leaders were then 
appointed. When asked what he was going to do, the group’s Wash- 
ington state co-chair replied: “I haven't been brought up to date on 



what their agenda is going to be.” A Seattle Post-Intelligencer edito- 
rial put it this way: “To hire a press agent to cook up a campaign, 
pay all that campaign’s bills and then claim that the campaign ‘was 
founded by more than 100 prominent community leaders in Ore- 
gon, Washington, and Northern California' is too crafty by half.” 63 

More recently, National Audubon Society board member Leslie 
Dach was embarrassed when O Dwyer's Washington Report noted 
that his PR firm, Edelman, was organizing publicity and security for 
the June 1995 “Fly-In for Freedom,” the Wise Use movement’s annual 
lobby event in the nation’s capital, sponsored by the Western States 
Coalition. Dach attempted to distance himself from the event by stat- 
ing that he personally “never had any involvement with the Coali- 
tion.” Actually, he epitomizes the dual “good cop/bad cop” strategy 
that coopts environmental groups like Audubon on the one hand, 
and wages war against them on the other. 64 

Dach handled PR for Democratic presidential candidate Michael 
Dukakis and is now an executive vice-president of Edelman PR and 
the General Manager of their DC operations. Edelman’s right-wing 
contingent includes Michael Deaver who, like Dach, is also an Edel- 
man Executive VP. Deaver was the PR genius behind Ronald Reagan 
and helped develop the 1994 Republican “Contract with America.” 
Edelman is a leading anti-environmental greenwasher. According to 
O’Dwyer’s PR Services, “the firm’s executives have a broad range of 
environmental expertise and have managed numerous issues sur- 
rounding Superfund, the Clean Water Act, the Resource Conserva- 
tion and Recovery Act, wetlands preservation and public lands.” 65 
Edelman’s client, the Alliance for America, is an industry-subsidized 
network of 650 anti-environmental companies and associations that 
are the backbone of the Wise Use movement. At the 1995 “Fly-in 
for Freedom,” Edelman helped the Alliance target the Endangered 
Species Act for elimination. 

No More Mr. Nice Guy 

Wise Use is the brainchild of Alan Gottlieb and Ron Arnold, respec- 
tively founder and director of the Bellevue, Washington-based Center 
for the Defense of Free Enterprise — the “premier think tank and train- 
ing center for the Wise Use movement,” according to the Greenpeace 
Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations. The founding funders 
of the Center include the timber firms Georgia-Pacific, Louisiana- 
Pacific, Boise Cascade, Pacific Lumber and MacMillan Bloedel, along 
with companies like Exxon and DuPont. The Wise Use agenda is 

Silencing Spring 


simple. Says Arnold, “We intend to wipe out every environmental 
group, by replacing it with a Wise Use group.” 

The public relations industry has been closely involved with Wise 
Use since its founding, according to Joyce Nelson, the author of Sul- 
tans of Sleaze: Public Relations and the Media. Nelson writes that 36 
of the corporations that are known to fund the Wise Use movement 
in the United States were clients of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller in 
the 1980s, the period during which industry began to pour money 
into organizing grassroots anti-environmentalism. 66 

To recruit and mobilize its troops, Wise Use relies on standard 
PR techniques of astroturf organizing. “Pro-industry citizen activist 
groups can do things the industry can’t,” explained Arnold. In a 
candid talk to the Ontario Forest Industries Association, Arnold elab- 
orated on the benefits of a citizen front group strategy: “It can fonn 
coalitions to build real political clout. It can be an effective and con- 
vincing advocate for your industry. It can evoke powerful archetypes 
such as the sanctity of the family, the virtue of the close-knit com- 
munity, the natural wisdom of the rural dweller, and many others 
I’m sure you can think of. It can use the tactic of the intelligent attack 
against environmentalists and take the battle to them instead of for- 
ever responding to environmentalist initiatives. And it can turn the 
public against your enemies.” 67 

The first Wise Use conference, held in 1988, was supported by a 
variety of special interests including Exxon and the National Rifle 
Association. The highlight of the conference was the presentation of 
Alan Gottlieb’s “Wise Use Agenda,” which listed goals such as: 

• rewriting the Endangered Species Act to remove protection from 
“non-adaptive species” like the California Condor; 

• immediate oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge; 

• opening up all public lands to mineral and energy production, 
including national parks and wilderness areas; 

• turning the development of national parks over to “private firms 
with expertise in people moving, such as Walt Disney”; 

• imposing civil penalties against anyone who legally challenges 
“economic action or development on federal lands.” 

The 1990 conference, funded by Chevron, Exxon, Shell Oil and 
Georgia-Pacific, featured a talk by Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media 
and Accuracy in Academia. Titled “Red Into Green,” Irvine’s talk 
claimed that environmentalism is the latest incarnation of socialism. 68 



Irvine’s groups are bankrolled by Dresser Industries, Chevron, Ciba- 
Geigy, Exxon, IBM, Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical, Union Carbide, 
Phillips Petroleum, Mobil Foundation and Texaco Philanthropic 
Foundation, among others.® 

Also at that conference, the right-wing Mountain States Legal Foun- 
dation gave three seminars on “Suing Environmental Organizations.” 
Mountain States Legal Foundation is funded by companies includ- 
ing Amoco, Exxon, Ford, Texaco, Phillips Petroleum, Chevron and 
the Coors Foundation. “Our intent is to sue environmental groups 
whenever there is a legal reason to do so,” Arnold said. “We feel 
that whenever any environmental group tells lies that have an eco- 
nomic harm against anybody, that is a civil tort, and under US law 
they should be vigorously prosecuted in civil court.” 70 

And if lawsuits fail, some anti-environmentalists urge even stronger 
tactics. Former Interior Secretary' James Watt (who in 1996 pleaded 
guilty' to try'ing to influence a Federal grand jury) told a gathering of 
cattlemen in June 1990, “If the troubles from environmentalists can- 
not be solved in the jury box or at the ballot box, perhaps the car- 
tridge box should be used.” 71 


The Torturers' Lobby 

If I wanted to lie, or if we wanted to lie, if we wanted to exaggerate, 
I wouldn't use my daughter to do so. I could easily buy other people 
to do it. 


Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada 

On October 10, 1993, the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo reported 
with satisfaction on President Clinton’s remarks at a ceremony for 
Colombia’s new ambassador to the United States. The President 
praised Colombia as a “valued trading partner” and “one of our 
strongest allies, not only in the effort to free the world of the scourge 
of narcotics trafficking, but also in our common desire to see democ- 
racy flourish and the rule of law prevail throughout the region." 

“More than any nation in this hemisphere, Colombia has suffered 
at the hands of the drug traffickers,” Clinton said. “The courage your 
people have demonstrated at all levels, from the President to the 
prosecutor, to the policeman on the street and the soldier in the field, 
merits our respect and thanks.” 

The following day, a group of “soldiers in the field” killed three 
peasants — two men and one woman — and dumped their bodies in 
front of the Catholic bishop’s residence in Tibu in Colombia’s San- 
tander region. The bishop, Monsignor Luis Madrid Merlano, con- 
demned the killings and the fact that soldiers displayed the bodies 
in the street for three hours before allowing them to be removed. 
In response to the Colombian army’s accusation that the peasants 
had been subversive guerrillas, Madrid Merlano noted that “the 
owner of the farm where they worked told me that they had been 
employed there for more than 20 months, and the woman who was 
killed was the trusted cook of the household.” 1 


7 44 


Colombia’s “policemen in the street” and “soldiers in the field" 
commit similar atrocities on literally a daily basis. The country’s 
dismal human rights record prompted Amnesty International to pub- 
lish a special 1994 report titled Myth and Reality, which held gov- 
ernment forces responsible for most of Colombia’s human rights 
violations. Similar reports have come from human rights organiza- 
tions, including Americas Watch and the Inter-American Human 
Rights Commission of the Organization of American States. The 
Andean Commission of Jurists, a human rights organization with 
offices in Bogota, has compiled data showing that Colombia’s police 
and armed forces were responsible for 70 percent of the country’s 
twelve political murders per day during 1993. Human rights groups 
estimate that there are at least 300,000 internal refugees in Colom- 
bia today and about 50,000 more who have fled to Ecuador. Of 264 
unionists assassinated worldwide from January 1990 to March 1991, 
over half were Colombian, according to the International Confeder- 
ation of Free Trade Unions in Brussels. 

There is an almost surreal absurdity in Clinton’s kind words of 
“respect and thanks” to the intellectual authors and physical perpe- 
trators of these crimes — particularly since Clinton's words came pack- 
aged in a speech in which he also declared, “All who abuse human 
rights, regardless of their ideology or position, must be punished 
severely and swiftly.” But President Clinton was simply expressing 
a common illusion in the United States — the notion that Colombia’s 
human rights problems are side-effects of the country’s “war on 
drugs.” As Marcela Salazar of the Andean Commission of Jurists 
observes, this perception is the result of careful PR positioning by 
the government of Colombia. “They present themselves as victims 
and say, ‘Things are veiy difficult for us, we are confronting the drug 
traffickers, and sometimes there are problems,’ ” Salazar says. “They 
have presented a good image for themselves, and they even say that 
they are in the vanguard of the struggle for human rights, but we 
have to look at their actual practice.” 2 

From Villain to Victim 

Until a decade ago, the government of Colombia didn’t pay much 
attention to its international image, but in the mid-1980s it began to 
show concern about its growing reputation as a compliant haven for 
the world’s largest drug empire. An opinion poll in 1987 showed 
that 76% of Americans thought the Colombian government was 
corrupt, and 80% wanted sanctions imposed. 3 The country’s image 

The Torturers ' Lobby 


suffered an additional blow in 1991 when the government stopped 
extradition of drug traffickers to the US and negotiated an in-country 
“surrender” of Pablo Escobar, the head of the notorious Medellin drug 
cartel. At the time, Escobar was facing nine indictments in the US 
for drug trafficking and murder. Under the terms of the surrender, 
he was picked up by a government helicopter and flown to a lux- 
ury jail dubbed the “Hilton prison” by US Congressman James Traf- 
icante. Escobar’s mountaintop jail came equipped with jacuzzi, air 
conditioning, three huge bedrooms and a guest room, walk-in clos- 
ets and private baths, phone and fax machines, a soccer field, a game 
room, and a panoramic view of the Medellin valley. He was also 
allowed to designate his own prison guards, and although police 
were banned from entering the “prison," well-placed bribes enabled 
Escobar to “escape” and “surrender” at will. 4 

To clean up its badly-soiled image, the Colombian government 
turned to the Sawyer/Miller Group, a top media consulting firm. 
Sawyer/Miller built its early career managing political campaigns for 
Democratic Party candidates including Senators Daniel Patrick Moyni- 
han, Ted Kennedy and John Glenn, as well as 1984 vice-presiden- 
tial candidate Geraldine Ferraro. In the mid-1980s, the firm shifted 
from election campaigning to “issue management” for corporations 
and international clients. 5 

After conducting opinion polls to evaluate the public’s opinion 
of Colombia, Sawyer/Miller concluded that the country’s image was 
so negative that an attempt to improve it through positive publicity 
would be dismissed as obvious propaganda. Instead, the firm devised 
a multi-stage campaign: first, reposition Colombia in the public mind 
from villain to victim. Then, turn the victim into a hero, and then a 
leader in the war on drugs. 6 

In 1991 alone, Colombia poured $3.1 million into the campaign, 
which began with newspaper ads and TV commercials targeted at 
Washington policymakers. The commercials showed stark images of 
a bullet-riddled car, a coffin and mourners. A voice-over recited a 
list of prominent Colombians murdered by drug traffickers, and asked 
viewers to “remember the Colombian heroes who are dying every 
day in the war against drugs.” 7 Another ad attempted to swing the 
focus away from Colombia’s role as drug supplier to the US role as 
consumer. It showed a young woman snorting a line of cocaine, with 
a caption that said, “Daig User or Drug Terrorist? How can we also 
consider her a drug terrorist? After all, this young American has never 
built a bomb or fired a gun. But, because of her cocaine habit, she 



is directly supporting the drug terrorists who are tearing apart our 
country. . . . We — and she — have to win this war together.” 

“Look at the press clips from then on,” bragged Sawyer/Miller’s 
Jack Leslie. “News stories, columns, editorials, all start talking more 
and more about demand.” 8 

In addition to advertising, Sawyer/Miller pumped out pamphlets, 
video news releases and letters to editors signed by Colombian gov- 
ernment officials. All requests from US journalists for interviews with 
Colombian officials were channeled through Sawyer/Miller. Sympa- 
thetic reporters got quick access, while critical journalists were turned 
away. Sawyer/Miller also organized meetings between Colombian 
government officials and newspaper editorial boards, pitching 
favorable stories and stressing Colombia’s value as a US trading part- 
ner. Following a meeting with New York Times Magazine editor War- 
ren Hoge, die Times ran a lengthy, factually flawed profile glorifying 
Colombian President Cesar Gaviria Trujillo — whose election cam- 
paign, in fact, had been heavily funded by drug cartels. After the 
article appeared, the Colombian embassy bought reprint rights and 
sent thousands of copies to journalists around the United States. 9 

Another Sawyer/Miller ad featured a line-up of dead or jailed drug 
leaders. “These men once ran the world’s largest drug empire,” said 
the text. “They murdered thousands, terrorized a democratic nation 
and turned the profits of cocaine into lives of luxury. . . . No coun- 
try has paid a higher price in the war on drugs than Colombia. That 
war isn’t over — but every day brings evidence that democracy can 
triumph over drugs.” The ad put a favorable spin on Colombia’s han- 
dling of Pablo Escobar, claiming that “Escobar is out of business and 
in jail. His prison is like many in the US — ringed by barbed wire and 
electric fences. A Colombian Army battalion surrounds it. Soon Pablo 
Escobar will be tried for his crimes.” 10 

In fact, the Colombian Army’s frequent collaboration with drug 
traffickers is common knowledge in Colombia. Justicia y Paz, a 
Colombian human rights organization comprising 55 religious con- 
gregations, has documented the links between drug cartels and army- 
supported “paramilitary groups” to cariy out covert death squad 
activities as part of Colombia’s decades-long guerrilla war. "They use 
very savage methods, such as cutting off people’s arms and legs with 
chainsaws,” said a Justicia y Paz researcher, speaking anonymously 
for fear of personal retribution. 11 

As Colombia’s image graduated from “victim" to “hero” in the war 
on drugs, the government’s acts of brutality and repression were cast 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


as “tough but necessary measures.” In 1991, Colombia began a “judi- 
cial reform” known as the system of “faceless justice.” In cases 
brought before the faceless courts, judges are kept hidden behind a 
partition that renders them invisible to defendants and their attor- 
neys. Special electronic equipment is used to disguise the judge’s 
voice. Prosecuting attorneys and witnesses may also have their iden- 
tities kept secret, and defendants are even denied access to infor- 
mation about the legal process and the evidence that has been 
brought against them. The system is supposedly aimed at protect- 
ing Colombian judges from intimidation and assassination by 
“narcoterrorists,” and received glowing praise in December of 1993 
by 60 Minutes, which ran a segment extolling the bravery of the 
Colombian judges who serve on the faceless courts. Cecilia Zarate, 
a Colombian woman active with human rights groups in the United 
States, had a different opinion: “Secret judges, secret witnesses, secret 
evidence — this is really scary. In Latin culture, people have a vivid 
historical memory of the killings, tortures and injustices that went 
on under this type of system during the Spanish Inquisition. It’s hor- 
rible that they should be bringing this back, really horrible.” 

The Center for Investigation and Popular Education (CINEP), a 
highly respected Jesuit organization which monitors human rights 
conditions in Colombia, examined the system of faceless justice and 
discovered that 584 of the 618 persons prosecuted under these spe- 
cial courts during the first six months of 1992 — that is, 94 percent — 
were persons engaged in social protests or civic organizing, while 
only 6 percent consisted of drug-trafficking or guenilla cases. 

After workers with the state-owned telephone system went on 
strike, for example, the government charged that the disruption of 
phone service constituted terrorism and arrested 13 union leaders. 
Other union members became victims of unofficial violence. The 
government used a strategy of “implausible denial” to account for 
the death of Telecom union member Jose Joaquin Caicedo Angulo. 
After he was strangled, gasoline was poured on his body, and he 
was set on fire. The government’s investigation into his death con- 
cluded that he had committed suicide. Later that year, a car bomb 
claimed the life of another Telecom worker, a technician named Gon- 
zalo Garcia. The government listed his murder as “unsolved.” 
“These official ‘explanations’ serve two functions,” said Jack Laun, 
a Wisconsin attorney who has been active for many years in Colom- 
bian human rights groups. “Before the international community, they 
enable the Colombian government to represent itself as innocent of 



crimes committed by its agents. To the victims of those crimes, on the 
other hand, they send a very different message. The government is 
announcing to the workers of Telecom, ‘We can kill you with impu- 
nity, and whatever we say about it afterwards will be believed.' ” 12 
Meanwhile, Colombia’s justice system remained notoriously lax 
with drug dealers. Pablo Escobar’s death in a 1994 shootout merely 
transferred power from his hands to a rival cocaine cartel in Cali, 
with no appreciable impact on the drug trade. After Ernesto Samper 
replaced Gaviria as president of Colombia, investigators discovered 
that Samper had received campaign contributions from the Cali cartel. 
Samper attempted to counter this revelation by launching a highly- 
publicized crackdown on the druglords, but journalist Steven Gutkin 
noted that “cartel leaders may actually prefer to be behind bars for 
a while. . . . More than a thousand underlings in the drug trade have 
already taken advantage of indulgent anti-narcotics legislation, either 
surrendering or cutting deals after being arrested. The average sen- 
tence has been three years, far less than the punishment for carry- 
ing an unlicensed gun. ... No one expects a significant decrease in 
the amount of illicit drugs entering the United States. . . . The gov- 
ernment must come through with meaningful prison sentences — not 
public relations ploys to appease the United States.” 13 

Flacking for the Fascists 

Governments that murder and jail their critics don’t particularly need 
to worry about maintaining an attractive image among their own 
people. Their public relations efforts are targeted primarily at an inter- 
national audience — in particular, to corporations, policymakers and 
news media responsible for shaping trade and foreign aid policies. 

“Contrary to common assumptions, propaganda plays an impor- 
tant role — and certainly a more covert and sophisticated role — in 
technologically advanced democratic societies, where the mainte- 
nance of the existing power and privileges are vulnerable to popular 
opinion,” writes Australian scholar Alex Carey. He cites a study by 
Robert Brady of PR during the first half of the twentieth century, 
which shows that “broadly speaking the importance of public rela- 
tions . . . decreases as one moves away from countries with long 
and deep-seated liberal, democratic and parliamentary institutions.” 

Brady argues that Italy and Japan had the least experience of demo- 
cratic institutions and therefore produced the least competent propa- 
ganda. In Germany, where there had been greater, though still limited 
experience of democratic institutions, “National Socialist propaganda 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


was by all means better organized . . . more vociferous and more ver- 
satile than the propaganda of either Italy or Japan.” At the other end 
of the scale, that is among countries with the longest experience of 
liberal, democratic institutions, “public relations propaganda ... in 
the United States ... is more highly coloured and ambidextrous than 
it has ever become, even in England.” 14 

In 1933, the Nazis turned for guidance to Ivy Lee, the US pioneer 
of public relations. Lee’s firm was hired for $25,000 per year by the 
German Dye Trust, I.G. Farben, which invited him to visit Gennany 
and meet Hitler along with propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels 
and other Nazi government officials. Lee’s 28-year-old son, James 
Lee, went to work for Farben in Berlin for $33,000 a year. An 
employee of Lee’s firm drafted a report suggesting that Joachim von 
Ribbentrop, the German general who later became Hitler’s foreign 
minister, “undertake a definite campaign to clarify the American 
mind” by speaking “over the radio to the American people” and writ- 
ing “a considered article for an important American publication.” 15 
Max Ilgner, the I.G. Farben official who hired Lee, was a member 
of the Nazi “Circle of Experts of the Propaganda Ministry.” After 
World War II he was convicted as a Nazi war criminal by the Nurem- 
berg Military Tribunals. According to the Nuremberg prosecution, 
“Farben’s foreign agents formed the core of Nazi intrigue through- 
out the world. Financed and protected by Farben, and ostensibly 
acting only as businessmen, Farben officials carried on propaganda, 
intelligence, and espionage activities indispensable to German prepa- 
ration for, and waging of, aggressive war.” 

In 1934, Ivy Lee’s work for Germany brought him before the US 
House Special Committee to answer charges that he was a Nazi pro- 
pagandist. Lee claimed that his meeting with Hitler was “just as a per- 
sonal matter, to size him up,” and said he had advised the Germans 
to abandon their persecutions of the Jews. These rationalizations 
failed to satisfy Congress, which in 1938 passed the Foreign Agents 
Registration Act (FARA) requiring anyone who engages in US polit- 
ical activities on behalf of a foreign government to register with the 
Criminal Division of the Justice Department. Under FARA, it is ille- 
gal for a foreign interest or agent to make political contributions, or 
for a US government official to act as a foreign agent. 16 

In practice, however, FARA is virtually toothless. “Many lobbyists 
do not even bother to register, and those who do provide only the 
minimum required information,” writes author Susan Trento. “When 
violations are discovered, little action is taken.” 17 



Banana Republicans 

Many of the big spenders on Washington lobbying and PR are gov- 
ernments with severe human rights abuses including Taiwan, South 
Korea, Pakistan, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. In 1992, the Washington- 
based Center for Public Integrity published a study titled “The 
Torturers’ Lobby,” showing that Washington lawyers and lobbyists, 
many of whom served as top political advisors to Presidents Reagan, 
Bush and Clinton, were raking in more than $30 million a year by 
helping repressive governments improve their images. PR giant Hill 
& Knowlton topped the list, with $14 million in receipts from coun- 
tries with documented records of abuse, torture and imprisonment, 
including Kuwait, Indonesia, Israel, China, Egypt and Peru. China, 
of course, uses strict media censorship and political prisons to con- 
trol its population. In 1989 it carried out the infamous massacre of 
hundreds of pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square. Other 
examples cited by “The Torturers’ Lobby” included: 

• Turkey, which got $800 million in US aid despite being charged 
by the State Department with widespread human rights abuses, 
spread $3.8 million around to capitol influence-peddlers, includ- 
ing $1.2 million to Hill & Knowlton. 

• Guatemala, whose genocide against its indigenous population is 
described in the autobiography of Nobel prize-winner Rigoberta 
Menchu, laid out $650,000 for Washington lobbying. During 
1991-92, while hundreds of Guatemalans were executed for polit- 
ical reasons, fees totalling $220,000 went to the Washington firm 
of Patton, Boggs & Blow, whose partners included Democratic 
National Committee Chairman Ron Brown (President Clinton’s 
Commerce Secretary). 

• Nigeria’s military government spent $2.6 million from 1991-92, 
over $1 million of which went to Burson-Marsteller subsidiary 
Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, one of the top five firms in the 
“torturers’ lobby.” In addition to Nigeria, the firm collected another 
$1.2 million in fees from the Republic of Kenya and Angola’s 
UNITA rebels. 18 

In some cases, “The Torturers’ Lobby” showed that countries were 
spending a large part of their foreign aid from the United States to 
subsidize Washington lobbyists. Nigeria’s $2.6 million in lobbying 
fees, for example, represented nearly a third of its $8.3 million in US 
aid. “The system stinks,” said Makau Mutua, director of Harvard Law 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


School’s Human Rights Project. “It’s morally objectionable, all this 
influence-peddling. There’s no doubt several of these countries 
couldn’t afford these lobbyists without the help of the American tax- 
payers.” 19 

Everybody Needs Some Bodies Sometime 

Some PR firms argue that they are ethically obligated, like attorneys, 
to accept virtually any client who can afford to pay. Reagan-era 
powerhouse Gray & Company’s clients included the murderous 
“Baby Doc” Duvalier in Haiti. In her biography of Robert Keith Gray, 
author Susan Trento says the company’s rationalizations to explain 
working for Haiti “utilized an Orwellian logic that would be daz- 
zling if it weren’t so appalling.” According to company executive 
Adonis Hoffman, “The government of Haiti, rank it wherever you 
will, ... is entitled to make its position known in Washington to the 
US government, and has the right to try to tell its side of whatever the 
stoiy is to the media and to the American public. In order to do that, 
they are going to have to retain a firm that knows how to do those 
kinds of things. ... By definition, people who hire lobbyists and PR 
people have problems, they have fears, and they have needs.” 

Trento comments sarcastically, “It was as if one of the most brutal 
dictators of the twentieth century were a poor lost soul seeking his 
inner child and Gray & Company a benevolent, kindly therapist.” 20 

In his pre-Clinton days, Ron Brown also personally represented 
the Duvalier government while working for Patton, Boggs & Blow 
in the early 1980s. Duvalier finally fled Haiti in 1986 to escape a pop- 
ular uprising, and power passed through the hands of a quick suc- 
cession of unpopular governments until December 16, 1990, when 
Haiti held the first democratic elections in the country’s history. Jean- 
Bertrand Aristide, a radical Catholic priest, received 67 percent of 
the vote in a field of 23 candidates, and assumed office on Febru- 
ary 7, 1991. Eight months later, however, soldiers led by Lieutenant- 
General Raoul Cedras and Colonel Michel Francois surrounded the 
presidential palace, seized Aristide and sent him into exile. During 
Aristide’s exile, some 4,000 Haitians were killed by the Cedras regime. 
“Boat people” from Haiti began fleeing in large numbers to the 
United States and other neighboring countries. The United States and 
the Organization of American States declared a trade embargo against 
the military regime. 21 

Cedras and Francois responded with a smear campaign against 
Aristide. After expelling him from the country, they rummaged 



through Aristide’s diaries and personal effects in search of incrimi- 
nating evidence. Predictably, this “investigation” concluded that 
Aristide was a “psychotic manic-depressive with homicidal and 
necrophiliac tendencies.” 22 The junta transmitted these charges to the 
US news media through an array of hired lobbyists and PR repre- 
sentatives, including George Demougeot, who also represented a US 
apparel firm with an assembly plant in Haiti, and Stephen A. Horblitt 
and Walter E. Faunteroy of Creative Associates International Inc. 23 
Another employee in the PR campaign was Darryl Reaves, a one- 
term Florida state representative who worked to arrange interviews 
and Capitol Hill connections for Francois and Cedras. Reaves avoided 
publicity for himself, telling reporters, “I don’t exist.” When one jour- 
nalist inquired too deeply, he responded with obscenities and vague 
threats that he would have the reporter arrested. 24 

The regime’s most visible lobbyist, however, was Robert McCan- 
dless. In addition to the junta, McCandless represented a group of 
businessmen headed by Gregory Brandt, whose interests in Haiti 
included cooking oil, cars, tomato paste and coffee. In March of 1992, 
McCandless accepted $85,000 from the junta as part of a $165,000 
contract. In his FARA filing, McCandless said he would be working 
“to direct favorable PR to Provisional Government and unfavorable 
PR against former President Aristide. . . . Eventually, ... try to get 
aid in money and in kind.” 25 In the spring of 1992, the Treasury 
department ordered McCandless to stop representing the Haitian gov- 
ernment on grounds that he was breaking the embargo, but he con- 
tinued to do so on what he claimed was now a “pro bono” basis. 26 

McCandless circulated position papers and editorials in Washing- 
ton. In an August 13, 1992, memo, he rehashed the Haitian military’s 
claim that Aristide was a “tyrant and a cruel and oppressive ruler,” 
and characterized the US trade embargo as “a policy of genocide” 
that would cause the deaths of “hundreds of thousands of innocent 
Haitians.” As a “suggested compromise,” McCandless proposed to 
end the crisis by letting Aristide return to Haiti — not to resume office, 
but to face trial before a “blue-ribbon citizens’ panel” on charges of 
embezzlement, inciting mob violence, torture and murder. 27 

In his PR work for the provisional government, McCandless cashed 
in on his friendship with conservative syndicated columnist Robert 
Novak, who obliged by visiting Haiti at McCandless’ invitation and 
writing a series of columns in support of the junta. In a 1993 article 
titled “Why So Hard on Haiti’s Military?” Novak accused the Clinton 
administration of “uncharacteristic rigidity” for refusing “to consider 

The Torturers' Lobby 


a negotiated settlement of exiled Haiti President Jean-Bertrand Aris- 
tide’s return to power or even to hear conflicting advice. . . . Warn- 
ings about Haiti began even before Clinton took office, when 
Washington lawyer Robert McCandless offered his invaluable con- 
tacts with the Haitian military and police to seek a solution. . . . 
McCandless again has offered the president use of his relationship 
with Francois and Cedras to seek a peaceful solution.” 28 

The Bush and Clinton administrations expressed support for Aris- 
tide as Haiti’s elected president, but behind the scenes the junta had 
powerful allies in the CIA and in the offices of conservative US Sen- 
ators Jesse Helms and Robert Dole. Its attacks on Aristide’s charac- 
ter received extensive media attention when Helms organized a 
“classified briefing” with Brian Latelle, the CIA’s intelligence officer 
for Latin America. The briefing, at which Latelle used a forged letter 
to document his false claim that Aristide suffered from psychologi- 
cal disorders, was promptly leaked to Novak at the Washington 
Post. 29 Helms followed up by delivering a newsmaking tirade against 
Aristide on the floor of the Senate, labeling him a “psychopath” and 
claiming that Aristide had incited followers to murder his opponents. 

With Friends Like These . . . 

Ironically, the most effective PR work against Aristide may have come 
from his “friends in high places.” Throughout the crisis, the US spon- 
sored negotiations that forced Aristide to make repeated concessions. 
When Aristide failed to comply, US officials attacked his “intransi- 
gence,” portraying his obstinacy as the primary obstacle to peace. 

Gregory Craig, a well-connected Washington attorney, was a key 
player in shaping the Clinton policy. A former Yale classmate of the 
Clintons, Craig was hired in 1992 to represent the interests of Fritz 
Mevs, Sr., a Miami resident who made his fortune with a sugar 
monopoly under the dictatorship of Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. 
Mevs, along with his sons and other family members, have been 
called the “mini-Mafia” of Haiti. They reportedly shared the military’s 
disdain for Aristide. A report by the National Labor Committee, a 
labor education group representing 23 national unions, claimed that 
Mevs was one of the chief organizers of the coup and that the Mevs 
family made money smuggling cement in violation of the embargo. 30 

Mevs contacted Craig to discover what measures he should take 
to protect his interests as the Bush administration considered freez- 
ing assets of backers of the coup. After determining that the US gov- 
ernment had no proof of Mevs family complicity in the coup, Craig 



agreed to become the family’s personal lobbyist in Washington. Using 
his Clinton connections, Craig played a key role in shaping US pol- 
icy toward Haiti after Bush left office. 31 

The Bush and Clinton administrations vacillated for two years 
before finally taking action, while the junta’s defenders repeated and 
refined their charge that Aristide was “just as bad or worse.” The 
Clinton administration finally sent troops in to Haiti in September 
1994 to impose a settlement that granted a full amnesty to the junta. 
After two years in exile, Aristide was allowed to resume office with 
barely 16 months remaining in his term, under an agreement that 
forbade him from running for re-election. 

The true significance of Aristide’s return to Haiti received a frank 
assessment from Major Louis Kemisan of the US Defense Intelligence 
Agency, who led the retraining of Haiti’s “new, reformed” police 
force. “You’re going to end up dealing with the same folks as before, 
the five families that run the country, the military and the bour- 
geoisie,” Kemisan said. “They’re the same folks that are supposed 
to be the bad guys now, but the bottom line is you know that you’re 
always going to end up dealing with them.’’ 32 

Them vs. Us 

The latter half of the twentieth century has been marked by grow- 
ing disillusionment as the American people have learned of the gulf 
that separates official rhetoric from the actual conduct of US foreign 
policy. This disillusionment has led to a set of attitudes that on the 
surface seem paradoxical. On the one hand, the people of the United 
States donate billions of dollars each year to overseas charitable 
causes, and although attitudes about most aspects of US foreign pol- 
icy tend to vary with the times, surveys of public opinion consis- 
tently show a deep concern abut the plight of needy people in other 
countries. According to one survey, 89% of the American people feel 
that “wherever people are hungry or poor, we ought to do what we 
can to help them.” 33 Only 5% feel that fighting world hunger is “not 
important.” Eliminating world hunger and poverty rank far ahead of 
“protecting American business abroad” and even ahead of “defend- 
ing our allies’ security” as an international concern. 33 

On the other hand, the public’s attitude toward government for- 
eign aid programs has been thoroughly negative since at least the 
early 1970s, when pollsters began taking surveys on that question. 
When asked to volunteer their views of “the two or three biggest 
foreign-policy problems facing the nation,” respondents regularly 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


identify “reducing foreign aid” as one of their top concerns. 35 Accord- 
ing to the Gallup polling organization, a sharp difference has 
emerged between the attitudes of the general public and the atti- 
tudes of people that pollsters (somewhat misleadingly) designate as 
“opinion leaders” — i.e., heads of business, the professions, politi- 
cians, the news media and labor union officials. With respect to eco- 
nomic aid, over 90 percent of “opinion leaders” support it, but the 
general public favors such aid by only a thin margin. Most people 
see foreign aid as helpful to the economies of recipient countries, 
but not to the United States. Moreover, they perceive it as benefit- 
ting the rich more than the poor, and 75 percent feel that it gets the 
US “too involved in other countries’ affairs.” 36 Public support for mil- 
itary aid is even weaker. Although it still receives the support of a 
two-to-one majority among “opinion leaders,” roughly the same 
majority within the general public opposes military aid. Moreover, four 
out of five Americans believe that military aid “lets dictatorships 
repress their own people,” and five out of six believe that it “aggra- 
vates our relations with other countries” and “gets us too involved 
in their affairs.’’ 37 

At the same time, the field of foreign policy offers a fertile breed- 
ing-ground for propaganda. Most efforts at molding public opinion 
target the portion of the public which is undecided, uninformed or 
vaguely informed about an issue, and foreign countries are by def- 
inition faraway places inhabited by people whose language and cus- 
toms are unfamiliar and different from ours. It is no accident that 
the US public relations industry first rose to prominence as a result 
of the Creel Committee’s propaganda efforts during World War I. 
Every successive war has brought new innovations and growth in 
both the technique and scope of public relations. 

Wartime propaganda has a long history, going back to Attila the 
Hun. The classical rhetorical model is crude but effective. “Before 
ordinary human beings can begin the organized killing known as 
‘war,’ they must first ‘kill’ their opponents psychologically,” observes 
Vincent Kavaloski. “This is the ritual — as old as civilization itself — 
known as ‘becoming enemies.’ The ‘enemy’ is described by our lead- 
ers as ‘not like us,’ almost inhuman. They are evil. They are cruel. 
They are intent on destroying us and all that we love. There is only 
one thing the ‘enemy’ understands — violence. This logic of the 
enemy image’ leads to one inescapable conclusion: the enemy must 
be killed. Indeed, destroying the enemy is an heroic act, an act of 
salvation and purification.” 38 



Author John MacArthur notes, for example, that during World 
War I, the French and British seized on Germany’s conquest of 
Belgium for propaganda purposes. The British-sponsored Bryce 
Committee claimed that German “murder, lust and pillage prevailed 
over many parts of Belgium on a scale unparalleled in any war 
between civilized nations during the last three centuries.” The com- 
mittee’s claims, which were never documented or corroborated, 
included allegations that German soldiers had publicly raped Bel- 
gian girls, bayonetted a two-year-old child, and mutilated a peasant 
girl’s breasts. The London Times claimed that a witness had seen Ger- 
mans “chop off the arms of a baby which clung to it’s mother’s 
skirts” — a story which was embellished further when the French press 
published a drawing showing German soldiers eating the hands. 39 

One of the striking features of war in the late half of this century 
has been the degree to which it has become closely integrated with 
sophisticated public relations, to the degree that military strategy itself 
has been transformed. For propaganda reasons, war has been rede- 
fined using new terminology — as a “police action” or “limited 
engagement.” The dead have become “casualties,” “missing in action” 
or the result of “collateral damage” and “friendly fire.” 

The Vietnam War contributed substantially to the military’s new 
emphasis on propaganda and psychological warfare. The war’s plan- 
ners realized that the use of US troops to accomplish traditional mil- 
itary objectives — capturing and holding territory — backfired when the 
US presence inspired anti-American nationalism among the Viet- 
namese. As the conflict dragged on, the steady stream of soldiers 
returning in body bags fed anti-war sentiment at home. Future wars, 
the planners concluded, should avoid extended placements of US 
troops on foreign soil. Instead, they proposed two alternative strate- 
gies: (1) brief blitzkriegs using overwhelming force to quickly and 
decisively defeat the enemy; and (2) replacing US forces with for- 
eign proxies, special operations forces and mercenaries to engage 
the enemy using guerrilla tactics of unconventional warfare. In either 
case, the psychological war for “hearts and minds” took precedence 
over the conventional war for terrain and physical assets. 

Lightning Wars 

The 1983 US invasion of Grenada, a tiny island nation with a pop- 
ulation of 160,000 and a per capita Income of $390 per year, marked 
the adoption of the new military doctrine. Following a violent coup 
widiin Grenada’s leftist government, the Reagan administration seized 

The Torturers' Lobby 


the opportunity to return Grenada to the fold of capitalism by send- 
ing an invasion force of 6,000 US troops to storm the island. 
Grenadan troops, outnumbered, outgunned and demoralized by the 
recent coup, offered little resistance. “With the equipment we have, 
it’s like Star Wars fighting cavemen,” said one soldier.'* 0 Three days 
after the troops landed, the fighting was essentially over. 

Unlike the invasion of Normandy Beach during World War II, the 
invasion of Grenada took place without the presence of journalists 
to observe the action. Reagan advisors Mike Deaver and Craig Fuller 
had previously worked for the Hannaford Company, a PR firm which 
had represented die Guatemalan government to squelch negative 
publicity about Guatemala’s massive violence against its civilian pop- 
ulation. Following their advice, Reagan ordered a complete press 
blackout surrounding the Grenada invasion. By the dme reporters 
were allowed on the scene, soldiers were engaged in “mop-up” 
actions, and the American public was treated to an antiseptic mili- 
tary victory minus any scenes of killing, destruction or incompetence. 
In fact, as fonner army intelligence officers Richard Gabriel and Paul 
Savage wrote a year later in the Boston Globe, “What really happened 
in Grenada was a case study in military incompetence and poor exe- 
cution.” Of the 18 American servicemen killed during the operation, 
14 died in friendly fire or in accidents. To this day, no one has been 
able to offer a reliable estimate of the number of Grenadans killed. 
Retired Vice-Admiral Joseph Metcalf III remembered the Grenada 
invasion fondly as “a marvelous, sterile operation.” 41 

After reporters protested the news blackout, the government pro- 
posed creating a “National Media Pool.” In future wars, a rotating 
group of regular Pentagon correspondents would be on call to depart 
at a moment’s notice for US surprise military operations. In theory, 
the pool system was designed to keep journalists safe and to pro- 
vide them with timely, inside access to military operations. In prac- 
tice, it was a classic example of PR crisis management strategy — 
enabling tire military to take the initiative in controlling media cov- 
erage by channeling reporters’ movements through Pentagon-des- 
ignated sources. 42 

The first test of this “pool system” came on December 20, 1989, 
when President Bush sent US troops into Panama to oust General 
Manuel Noriega. Until his fall from official grace earlier that year, 
Noriega had been a longtime informant for the CIA and US Drug 
Enforcement Agency. As vice-president, in fact, Bush himself had 
personally honored Noriega for his assistance to US anti-drug efforts. 



For that reason alone, the invasion of Panama required careful man- 
agement to keep the media from raising embarrassing questions. 

Once again, the invasion was carried out with blinding speed. 
The Pentagon held the National Media Pool captive on a US base 
in Panama for the first five hours of the fighting, by which time the 
heaviest action was already over. Outside of Pentagon pictures 
spoon-fed to journalists, little real information reached the American 
public. In El Chorrillo, the desperately poor neighborhood in Panama 
City where General Manuel Noriega’s headquarters were located, at 
least 300 civilians died in the attack and resulting crossfire, some 
burned alive in their homes. Aside from the victims and US Army 
film crews, however, no one was allowed to observe the attack. The 
media dutifully reported the Pentagon’s claim that only 202 civilians 
and 50 Panamanian soldiers died in the entire invasion, even though 
estimates from other sources ranged as high as 4,000 civilian deaths. 43 

Dirty Little Wars 

Central America’s revolutionary movements were too strong to be 
dislodged with a weekend war like the ones in Grenada and Panama. 
A longer-term, more sophisticated strategy was needed — one that 
kept US troops out of the line of fire while enabling the Pentagon 
to confront “the enemy." The strategy that carried the day in Wash- 
ington became known as the doctrine of “low-intensity conflict.” As 
Sara Miles observed in her landmark 1986 analysis, 

Its name comes from its place on the “intensity spectrum” of warfare 
which ascends from civil disorders, through classical wars, to nuclear 
holocaust. . . . “This kind of conflict is more accurately described as 
revolutionary and counterrevolutionary warfare,” explains Col. John 
Waghelstein, currently commander of the Army’s Seventh Special 
Forces. Me warns that the term “low-intensity” is misleading, as it 
describes the level of violence strictly from a military viewpoint. In 
fact, Waghelstein argues, this type of conflict involves “political, eco- 
nomic, and psychological warfare, with the military being a distant 
fourth in many cases." In perhaps the most candid definition given 
by a US official, Waghelstein declares that low-intensity conflict “is 
total war at the grassroots level .” 44 

The 1979 Sandinista revolution, which overthrew the Somoza dic- 
tatorship in Nicaragua, rang alarm bells in Washington. The Somoza 
family had ruled the country for 45 years after coming to power by 
murdering its enemies. It was notorious for corruption and violence, 
but it was also considered an unwavering ally of the United States. 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


Anastasio Somoza was also one of the first Latin American dicta- 
tors to recognize the value of a good flack, hiring the Mackenzie 
and McCheyne PR firm in New York, along with lobbyist William 
Cramer, a former Republican congressman from Florida. In 1978, 
Somoza ’s last full year in power, Mackenzie and McCheyne received 
over $300,000 in fees from the Somoza government. As the revolu- 
tion gained momentum, Mackenzie and McCheyne partner Ian 
Mackenzie was dispatched to counter negative reports characteriz- 
ing the dictator as corrupt, authoritarian, crude, cruel and overweight. 
“The president is totally different from what people think,” Macken- 
zie said. “He is intelligent, most capable, warm-hearted. He is loyal 
and strong with his friends, compassionate with his enemies. ... By 
the sheer law of averages, Somoza has to have done some good. 
Even Mussolini did some good for Italy.” As an example of the free- 
dom that existed under the Somoza regime, Mackenzie pointed to 
Nicaragua’s opposition newspaper, La Prensa 45 

Two months later, La Prensa e ditor Pedro Joaquin Chamorro was 
gunned down in the street by Somoza’s business partners, trigger- 
ing a paralyzing nationwide strike demanding Somoza’s resignation. 
Somoza hired a new flack, paying $7,000 per month for the services 
of Norman L. Wolfson of the New York PR firm of Norman, 
Lawrence, Patterson & Farrell. As Somoza’s air force was decimat- 
ing Nicaraguan cities with aerial bombings during its final campaign 
of terror, Wolfson — who didn’t speak Spanish — complained to who- 
ever would listen that reporters were trying to “knock down” Somoza 
and had not "been entirely fair.”' 16 (Wolfson’s memoir of his experi- 
ence, titled “Selling Somoza: The Lost Cause of a PR Man,” appeared 
in the July 20, 1979, issue of William Buckley’s conservative National 
Review, which was on sale at newsstands on July 19, the day Somoza 
fled the country. In it, Wolfson describes his client as “a spoiled brat 
who had evolved into middle age, a know-it-all who asked for advice 
and couldn’t take it, a boor, a rude, overbearing bully” who fanta- 
sized about crushing the genitals of journalists.) 47 

By the time Somoza fled Nicaragua, his family had accumulated 
wealth estimated at $400 to $500 million. Meanwhile, half the coun- 
try’s population was illiterate. One in three infants bom to poor 
Nicaraguans died before the age of one. More than 20,000 Nicara- 
guans suffered from advanced tuberculosis. The victorious Sandi- 
nistas launched ambitious, popular vaccination and education 
programs. They also broke new ground in foreign policy, seeking 
alliances with Cuba and the Soviet Union. A line in the country’s 



new national anthem — “We fight the yankees, enemies of human- 
ity” — showed just how far they intended to take Nicaragua from the 
Somoza days of dependence and fealty to the United States. 

The “low-intensity” strategy aimed at undermining the Sandinistas 
was an ambitious concept, uniting Vietnam-era counterinsurgency 
with civic action initiatives, psychological warfare, public relations 
activities and civilian “development assistance” projects traditionally 
considered beyond the sphere of military responsibilities. On the eco- 
nomic level, the US pressured international financial institutions to 
cut off loans to Nicaragua and imposed a debilitating trade embargo. 
On the political front, the US promoted carefully stage-managed elec- 
tions in El Salvador and Honduras. Psychological operations against 
Nicaragua ranged from sabotage attacks to radio propaganda broad- 
casts. On the military level, US strategy was designed to avoid the 
commitment of US ground troops, while doing everything possible 
to create the fear of a US invasion. 

The US also brought together Somoza’s dispersed National Guard 
and reorganized it into what became known as the contra army. At 
first the contras had no political leadership, so the White House 
recruited a group of disaffected Nicaraguan businessmen and scripted 
speeches to help them pose as the contras “civilian leadership." The 
civilian leaders included Edgar Chamorro, a Managua advertising 
executive who later became disaffected with the cause. Chamorro 
complained bitterly in his 1987 book, Packaging the Contras: A Case 
of CIA Disinformation, that the US had used him as a civilian fig- 
urehead for an army over which he had no real control. 

The CIA paid Chamorro a salary of $2,000 per month plus 
expenses for his work, which included bribing Honduran journal- 
ists and broadcasters to write and speak favorably about the contras 
and to attack the Nicaraguan government and call for its overthrow. 
“Approximately 15 Honduran journalists and broadcasters were on 
the CIA’s payroll, and our influence was thereby extended to every 
major Honduran newspaper and radio and television station,” 
Chamorro said. 48 

In 1983, the Reagan Administration began a series of major mili- 
tary maneuvers in Honduras, coordinated with contra units and the 
Salvadoran military. The maneuvers were carefully staged to create 
the impression that they were preludes to a US invasion of Nicaragua. 
In reality - , as Miles observed, 

The maneuvers were not a preparation or cover for the war: they ivere 

the embodiment of the war . . . . Fears that the Administration may be 

Ihe Torturers' Lobby 


threatening to invade have been an integral part of the plan at the 
psychological level. . . . The first goal . . . was to squeeze the econ- 
omy by forcing a massive diversion of resources into defense. . . . 
Next came psychological operations to feed on the conflict: leaflets 
distributed throughout the country urged Nicaraguan youths to escape 
the “totalitarian Marxist draft”; radio stations of the Nicaraguan Demo- 
cratic Force (FDN) in Honduras urged revolt against “the communists 
who spend our national treasure on bullets instead of food.” 49 

The Reagan administration faced a scandal in 1984 with the dis- 
closure that the CIA had produced a training manual for the contras 
titled Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare. The strategy out- 
lined in the text include recommendations for selective assassina- 
tion of Nicaraguan government officials. Critics charged the CIA with 
encouraging indiscriminate assassination of civilians. Miles observed, 
however, that the actual intent of the document was more subtle: 

There is a conscious effort to reduce the presence of the civilian gov- 
ernment, to remove successful social programs and the ideological 
influence that comes with them. ... In practice, this means the targeted 
torture and assassination of teachers, health workers, agricultural tech- 
nicians and their collaborators in the community. This is not, as many 
critics charge, “indiscriminate violence against civilians.” . . . Rather, 
the violence is part of a logical and systematic policy, and reflects the 
changing pattern of the war. 50 

The War At Home 

The most pressing concern of all for the Reagan administration was 
the need to win the support of the US people for its policies in 
Central America. “I think the most critical special operations mission 
we have today is to persuade the American people that the com- 
munists are out to get us. If we can win this war of ideas, we can 
win everywhere else," explained Michael Kelly, Deputy Assistant Sec- 
retary of the US Air Force. “Psychological operations, ranging from 
public affairs on the one end, through black propaganda on the other 
end, is the advertising and marketing of our product.” ,1 

“Public affairs” is the government’s term for “public relations” — 
a rather pointless change in terminology adopted to get around a 
1913 law which specifically enjoins federal government agencies 
against engaging in public relations activities. The law also forbids 
the White House from using ads, telegrams, letters, printed matter 
or other media outside “official channels” to influence members of 
Congress regarding legislation. Rules against CIA involvement in 




domestic US politics are even more severe. It is against the law for 
the CIA to operate domestically, except in narrowly-defined cir- 
cumstances such as cooperating with an FBI investigation. In 1982, 
however, reports of the secret CIA war in Nicaragua led Congress 
to pass the Boland Amendment, ending military aid to the contras 
and barring the Reagan administration from any further attempts to 
overthrow the Sandinistas. 

In response, Reagan dispatched CIA Director William Casey in Jan- 
uary 1983 to set up a “public diplomacy” machine that journalists 
Robert Parry and Peter Kornbluh describe as "America’s first peace- 
time propaganda ministry ... a set of domestic political operations 
comparable to what the CIA conducts against hostile forces abroad. 
Only this time they were turned against the three key institutions of 
American democracy: Congress, the press, and an informed elec- 
torate. . . . Employing the scientific methods of modern public rela- 
tions and the war-tested techniques of psychological operations, the 
administration built an unprecedented bureaucracy in the [National 
Security Council] and the State Department designed to keep the 
news media in line and to restrict conflicting information from reach- 
ing the American public.” 52 

As head of the operation, Casey appointed Walter Raymond, Jr., 
a 20-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine overseas media opera- 
tions — described by one US government source as the CIA’s lead- 
ing propaganda expert. According to Washington Post editor Ben 
Bradlee, Raymond's involvement in the campaign symbolized “the 
wholesale integration of intelligence and PR at the National Security 
Council.” 53 During the Iran/Contra scandal, Congress investigated the 
Reagan administration’s domestic propaganda operations and found 
that Raymond’s name appeared on Oliver North’s calendar more 
than that of any other White House staff member or government 
employee. A chapter detailing these domestic activities was drafted 
for the investigating committee’s Iran/Contra report, but House and 
Senate Republicans successfully blocked even a paragraph of the 
draft from being included in the committee’s final report. As a result, 
the CIA’s domestic propaganda activities in violation of its charter 
have received almost no public scrutiny. 

A Little Help from Our Friends 

As the PR apparatus was taking shape in August 1983, Casey sum- 
moned a group of top public relations executives to a full-day, hush- 
hush strategy meeting. Four of the five PR executives at the meeting 

The Torturers' Lobby 


with Casey were prominent members of the Public Relations Soci- 
ety of America, the industry’s leading professional association. Ail 
five were members of “PR Seminar,” a 37-year-old highly secretive 
gathering of about 120 senior corporate PR executives. All PR Sem- 
inar proceedings are “off the record,” and members are threatened 
with a lifetime ban if they reveal any details of PRS to the press. The 
members who met with Casey were: 

• Kalman B. Druck, retired president and founder of Harshe-Rotman 
& Druck. He was national president of the PRSA in 1972 and has 
long been one of its most outspoken and prominent members. 

• Kenneth Clark, vice-president for corporate communications of 
Duke Power Co., and a former national treasurer of PRSA. 

• Kenneth D. Huszar, a senior vice-president of PR giant Burson- 
Marsteller, the largest PR firm in the world. 

• William I. Greener, Jr., senior vice-president of corporate relations 
at G.D. Searle. Greener had served previously as deputy press sec- 
retary for President Gerald Ford and then as assistant secretary of 
public affairs for the Department of Defense under Donald Rums- 
feld in the late 1970s. 

• James Bowling of Philip Morris, a highly experienced Washing- 
ton hand who later went on to work for Burson-Marsteller. In 1985 
Bowling became chairman of the Public Affairs Council, the lead- 
ing public affairs industry trade association. 5,1 

According to Druck the atmosphere at the meeting was emo- 
tionally supercharged. It began in the morning with a briefing in front 
of a large map of Latin America. Aides from the CIA and National 
Security Council painted a frightening picture of subversion spread- 
ing throughout Central America and asked for advice to help pin 
“white hats” on the contras and “black hats” on the Sandinistas. At 
the aides’ request, the PR executives brainstormed some 25 ideas, 
which were presented on an easel while Casey took copious notes. 

Their advice boiled down to two principal suggestions. First, "that 
the administration follow the lead of modern-day corporations by 
setting up a classic corporate communications function within the 
White House.” Second, to dramatize the contra cause, they proposed 
that the White House set up “a private sector-funded public educa- 
tion program,” headed by a prominent individual, “to launch a 
highly-publicized national fund drive.” 55 



Following this advice to the letter, the White House brought 
together a coalition of “retired” military men and right-wing million- 
aires to support the “Nicaragua Freedom Fund,” chaired by Wall 
Street investment executive William Simon. Contributors included 
familiar right-wing figures like TV evangelist Pat Robertson, Colorado 
beer baron Joseph Coors, oil magnate Nelson Bunker Hunt, singer 
Pat Boone, and Soldier of Fortune magazine. The Fund claimed to 
raise over $20 million through activities such as a $250-a-plate 
“Nicaraguan refugee” dinner in April 1985 attended by Casey and 
Simon and featuring a speech by Reagan. In reality, the Fund was 
a propaganda front, spending almost as much money as it raised. 
An audit of the “refugee dinner” showed it had raised $219,525 but 
costs totaled $218,376, including $116,938 in “consulting fees.” 56 
The main purpose of the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund was to divert 
attention from the covert channels through which real money flowed 
to the contras in violation of the Boland Amendment. One of those 
channels was a specialized PR finn, International Business Communi- 
cations, which pleaded guilty in 1987 to fraud by using a tax-exempt 
foundation to raise funds to arm the contras. It had been a profit- 
able business, according to the Iran/Contra congressional investigat- 
ing committee, which concluded that IBC had kept about $1.7 million 
of the $5 million it channeled to the contras F 

The other part of the PR plan — setting up a “communications func- 
tion within the White House” — put Raymond at the head of a newly- 
created “Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the 
Caribbean.” “Public diplomacy” was simply another synonym for 
public relations. In its first year alone, reported Parry and Kornbluh, 
the activities of the OPD included “booking more than 1,500 speak- 
ing engagements, including radio, television, and editorial board 
interviews; publishing three booklets on Nicaragua; and distributing 
materials to 1,600 college libraries, 520 political science faculties, 122 
editorial writers, and 107 religious organizations. Special attention 
was given to prominent journalists.” 58 In 1985, for example, a memo 
by OPD staffer Otto Reich described using a “cut-out” (someone 
whose tie to the OPD was concealed) to set up visits by contra leader 
Alfonso Robelo to news organizations including Hearst Newspapers, 
Newsweek, Scripps-Howard Newspapers, the editorial board of the 
Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, the “MacNeil-Lehrer Report,” the 
“Today Show” and CBS Morning News. 59 

In private memos to the National Security Council, the OPD 
boasted also of having “killed” news stories that contradicted the 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


Reagan administration’s public position on Nicaragua, using tactics 
that included intimidation and character assassination of journalists. 
Using $400,000 raised from private donors, the OPD funded orga- 
nizations such as Accuracy In Media, a right-wing organization that 
vigorously attacked journalists who criticized Reagan’s foreign pol- 
icy. In July 1985, the OPD itself helped spread a scurrilous story that 
some American reporters had received sexual favors from Sandinista 
prostitutes in return for writing slanted stories. 60 

The OPD assigned five Army experts from the 4th Psychological 
Operations Group to find “exploitable themes and trends” and used 
opinion polling to “see what turns Americans against Sandinistas.” 
A variety of publicity stunts and news stories were staged to achieve 
this objective. In 1984, for example, the White House leaked infor- 
mation to the press to create a mythical “MIGs Crisis.” The story, 
which claimed that Nicaragua was about to receive a delivery of 
Soviet fighter planes, was prominently played on the TV news, with 
“special bulletins” interrupting regular programming. Although it was 
later proven false, the MIGs story helped create the public percep- 
tion that Nicaragua posed a military threat to the US, and also diverted 
attention away from elections which had been held earlier that week 
in Nicaragua. Despite widespread praise from a large contingent of 
international observers, Nicaragua’s first free elections — in which the 
Sandinistas received 67 percent of the vote — were summarily dis- 
missed as a “sham” by the Reagan administration. 61 

The White House used classic “enemy-image” propaganda to paint 
the Sandinistas as the embodiment of evil — “a second Cuba, a sec- 
ond Libya” — while describing the contras as “the moral equivalent 
of our founding fathers.” White House Communications Director 
Patrick Buchanan claimed that “Iranian, PLO, Libyan and Red Brigade 
elements” were “turning up in Managua" and warned that “if Central 
America goes the way of Nicaragua, they will be in San Diego .” 62 
The Sandinistas were accused of drug trafficking, terrorism, perse- 
cuting Jews, building secret prisons, and beating Catholics in the 
street for attending mass . 63 

To push the terrorism charge, the White House used Neil Liv- 
ingstone, a self-proclaimed “expert on terrorism” and senior vice- 
president with the public relations firm of Gray & Company. In fact, 
considerable circumstantial evidence suggests that Gray & Company 
was itself connected to secret arms and money shipments connected 
with the Iran/Contra affair. 64 In addition to a web of incriminating 
financial transactions, the evidence includes the September 24, 1985, 



shooting of Glenn Souham in Paris. Souham was the son of New 
York PR counselor Gerard Souham, a frequent White House visitor 
whose firm was affiliated with Gray & Company. Glenn had talked 
openly to friends of working with a certain “lieutenant colonel” at 
the National Security Council and of suddenly making more money 
than ever before. Although the killing received almost no attention 
in the major news media, O 'Dwyer’s PR Services came to the con- 
clusion that “young Souham, because of his international social and 
business connections, was enticed into Iran-Contra arms dealing” and 
that his indiscriminate bragging to friends led to his assassination. 65 

The Smell of Success 

By the late 1980s, the Sandinistas’ image in the United States was so 
negative that to describe Nicaragua as anything other than a “totali- 
tarian dungeon” was considered commie-symp heresy. Reporters sta- 
tioned in Nicaragua discovered that they had to trim their sails 
accordingly. “In the first couple of years I was here,” said Judy But- 
ler, a journalist living in Managua, “there was an interest, at least on 
the part of some reporters, to try to write about what they saw 
in Nicaragua, within the framework of what would be acceptable 
to their editors. Increasingly, their stories were changed in the 
States and the reporters started carrying telexes around to show that 
what got published was not what they had written. Now, they don’t 
even bother.” 66 

The final nail in the Sandinista coffin was the National Endow- 
ment for Democracy (NED), founded by the same White House exec- 
utive order that launched the Office of Public Diplomacy. Funded 
by Congress, the NED provides money for “democracy promo- 
tion" and “civic training” in foreign countries abroad. As Nicaragua 
geared up for elections in 1990, President Bush sent $9 million in 
NED money, including a $4 million contribution to the campaign of 
opposition presidential candidate Violeta Chamorro. 

Bush almost needn’t have bothered. By 1990 a decade of war, 
combined with the US blockade of trade and investment, had 
reduced Nicaragua to a bleeding hell-hole. Economists debated 
whether “shattered" was a strong enough word to describe the state 
of the Nicaraguan economy, which suffered an inflation rate of 20 
thousand percent in 1988. To curb inflation, the Sandinistas had 
adopted a series of drastic economic measures, driving up unem- 
ployment and slashing free food and health programs to the poor. 
The unpopular military draft, rationing, and a general feeling of 

The Torturers' Lobby 


exhaustion all contributed to the Sandinistas’ growing unpopularity, 
and the Chamorro opposition won the elections handily. 

In the United States, revelations of White House Iran/Contra oper- 
ations brought congressional investigations, lawsuits and convictions 
which were later overturned. The Office of Public Diplomacy was 
disbanded in 1988, after the US Comptroller General concluded that 
it had “engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities designed 
to influence the media and public to support Administration Latin 
American policies.” 67 

The PR officials involved in helping Casey design the plan also 
came under scrutiny, when another member of the Public Relations 
Society of America, Summer Harrison, filed a complaint with the 
PRSA’s Ethics Board. Under PRSA’s code of ethics, members are sup- 
posed to “strictly" adhere to government rules. After meeting to assess 
Hanison’s charges, however, the Ethics Board issued a terse 
announcement stating that its members had not violated die code 
and that “there was no basis for further examination.” Harrison com- 
plained about improprieties and conflicts of interest in the ethical 
review process. In response, the committee took up charges against 
Harrison, claiming that her complaint had violated a provision of 
die ethics code which says PRSA members may not “intentionally 
damage the professional reputation or practice of another practi- 
tioner.” Rather than answer the charge, Harrison resigned in disgust 
from the PRSA. 68 

The Mother of All Clients 

On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops led by dictator Saddam Hussein 
invaded the oil-producing nation of Kuwait. Like Noriega in 
Panama, Hussein had been a US ally for nearly a decade. From 1980 
to 1988, he had killed about 150,000 Iranians, in addition to at least 
13,000 of his own citizens. Despite complaints from international 
human rights group, however, the Reagan and Bush administrations 
had treated Hussein as a valuable ally in the US confrontation with 
Iran. As late as July 25 — a week before the invasion of Kuwait — US 
Ambassador April Glaspie commiserated with Hussein over a “cheap 
and unjust” profile by ABC’s Diane Sawyer, and wished for an 
“appearance in the media, even for five minutes,” by Hussein that 
“would help explain Iraq to the American people.” 69 

Glaspie’s ill-chosen comments may have helped convince the dic- 
tator that Washington would look the other way if he “annexed” 
a neighboring kingdom. The invasion of Kuwait, however, crossed 



a line that the Bush Administration could not tolerate. This time 
Hussein’s crime was far more serious than simply gassing to death 
another brood of Kurdish refugees. This time, oil was at stake. 

Viewed in strictly moral tenns, Kuwait hardly looked like the sort 
of country that deserved defending, even from a monster like Hus- 
sein. The tiny but super-rich state had been an independent nation 
for just a quarter century when in 1986 the ruling al-Sabah family 
tightened its dictatorial grip over the “black gold” fiefdom by dis- 
banding the token National Assembly and firmly establishing all 
power in the be-jeweled hands of the ailing Emir. Then, as now, 
Kuwait’s ruling oligarchy brutally suppressed the country’s small 
democracy movement, intimidated and censored journalists, and 
hired desperate foreigners to supply most of the nation’s physical 
labor under conditions of indentured servitude and near-slavery. The 
wealthy young men of Kuwait’s ruling class were known as spoiled 
party boys in university cities and national capitals from Cairo to 
Washington. 70 

Unlike Grenada and Panama, Iraq had a substantial army that 
could not be subdued in a mere weekend of fighting. Unlike the 
Sandinistas in Nicaragua, Hussein was too far away from US soil, 
too rich with oil money, and too experienced in ruling through pro- 
paganda and terror to be dislodged through the psychological-war- 
fare techniques of low-intensity conflict. Waging a war to push Iraq's 
invading army from Kuwait would cost billions of dollars and require 
an unprecedented, massive US military mobilization. The American 
public was notoriously reluctant to send its young into foreign bat- 
des on behalf of any cause. Selling war in the Middle East to the 
American people would not be easy. Bush would need to convince 
Americans that former ally Saddam Hussein now embodied evil, and 
that the oil fiefdom of Kuwait was a struggling young democracy. 
How could the Bush Administration build US support for “liberat- 
ing” a country so fundamentally opposed to democratic values? How 
could the war appear noble and necessary rather than a crass grab 
to save cheap oil? 

“If and when a shooting war starts, reporters will begin to wonder 
why American soldiers are dying for oil-rich sheiks,” warned Hal 
Steward, a retired army PR official. “The US military had better get 
cracking to come up with a public relations plan that will supply 
the answers the public can accept.” 71 

Steward needn't have worried. A PR plan was already in place, 
paid for almost entirely by the “oil-rich sheiks” themselves. 

The Torturers' Lobby 


Packaging the Emir 

US Congressman Jimmy Hayes of Louisiana — a conservative Demo- 
crat who supported the Gulf War — later estimated that the govern- 
ment of Kuwait funded as many as 20 PR, law and lobby firms in 
its campaign to mobilize US opinion and force against Hussein. 72 Par- 
ticipating firms included the Rendon Group, which received a 
retainer of $100,000 per month for media work, and Neill & Co., 
which received $50,000 per month for lobbying Congress. Sam 
Zakhem, a former US ambassador to the oil-rich gulf state of Bahrain, 
funneled S7.7 million in advertising and lobbying dollars through two 
front groups, the “Coalition for Americans at Risk" and the “Free- 
dom Task Force.” The Coalition, which began in the 1980s as a front 
for the contras in Nicaragua, prepared and placed TV and newspa- 
per ads, and kept a stable of fifty speakers available for pro-war ral- 
lies and publicity events. 73 

Hill & Knowlton, then the world’s largest PR firm, served as 
mastermind for the Kuwaiti campaign. Its activities alone would have 
constituted the largest foreign-funded campaign ever aimed at manip- 
ulating American public opinion. By law, the Foreign Agents Regis- 
tration Act should have exposed this propaganda campaign to the 
American people, but the Justice Department chose not to enforce 
it. Nine days after Saddam’s army marched into Kuwait, the Emir’s 
government agreed to fund a contract under which Hill & Knowl- 
ton would represent “Citizens for a Free Kuwait," a classic PR front 
group designed to hide the real role of the Kuwaiti government and 
its collusion with the Bush administration. Over the next six months, 
the Kuwaiti government channeled $11.9 million dollars to Citizens 
for a Free Kuwait, whose only other funding totalled $17,861 from 
78 individuals. Virtually all of CFK’s budget — $10.8 million — went 
to Hill & Knowlton in the form of fees. 74 

The man running Hill & Knowlton’s Washington office was Craig 
Fuller, one of Bush’s closest friends and inside political advisors. The 
news media never bothered to examine Fuller’s role until after the 
war had ended, but if America’s editors had read the PR trade press, 
they might have noticed this announcement, published in O’Duyer’s 
PR Services before the fighting began: “Craig L. Fuller, chief of staff 
to Bush when he was vice-president, has been on the Kuwaiti 
account at Hill & Knowlton since the first day. He and [Bob] Dilen- 
schneider at one point made a trip to Saudi Arabia, observing the 
production of some 20 videotapes, among other chores. The Wirth- 
lin Group, research arm of H&K, was the pollster for the Reagan 



Administration. . . . Wirthlin has reported receiving $1.1 million in 
fees for research assignments for the Kuwaitis. Robert K. Gray, Chair- 
man of H&K/USA based in Washington, DC had leading roles in both 
Reagan campaigns. He has been involved in foreign nation accounts 
for many years. . . . Lauri J. Fitz-Pegado, account supervisor on the 
Kuwait account, is a former Foreign Service Officer at the US Infor- 
mation Agency who joined Gray when he set up his firm in 1982.” 75 

In addition to Republican notables like Gray and Fuller, Hill & 
Knowlton maintained a well-connected stable of in-house Democ- 
rats who helped develop the bipartisan support needed to support 
the war. Lauri Fitz-Pegado, who headed the Kuwait campaign, had 
previously worked with super-lobbyist Ron Brown representing 
Haiti’s Duvalier dictatorship. Hill & Knowlton senior vice-president 
Thomas Ross had been Pentagon spokesman during the Carter 
Administration. To manage the news media, H&K relied on vice- 
chairman Frank Mankiewicz, whose background included service as 
press secretary and advisor to Robert F. Kennedy and George 
McGovern, followed by a stint as president of National Public Radio. 
Under his direction, Hill & Knowlton arranged hundreds of meet- 
ings, briefings, calls and mailings directed toward the editors of daily 
newspapers and other media outlets. 

Jack O’Dwyer had reported on the PR business for more than 
twenty years, but he was awed by the rapid and expansive work of 
H&K on behalf of Citizens for a Free Kuwait: “Hill & Knowlton . . . 
has assumed a role in world affairs unprecedented for a PR firm. 
H&K has employed a stunning variety of opinion-forming devices 
and techniques to help keep US opinion on the side of the Kuwaitis. 

. . . The techniques range from full-scale press conferences show- 
ing torture and other abuses by the Iraqis to the distribution of tens 
of thousands of ‘Free Kuwait’ T-shirts and bumper stickers at college 
campuses across the US.” 76 

Documents filed with the US Department of Justice showed that 
119 H&K executives in 12 offices across the US were overseeing the 
Kuwait account. “The firm’s activities, as listed in its report to the 
Justice Department, included arranging media interviews for visiting 
Kuwaitis, setting up observances such as National Free Kuwait Day, 
National Prayer Day (for Kuwait), and National Student Information 
Day, organizing public rallies, releasing hostage letters to the media, 
distributing news releases and information kits, contacting politicians 
at all levels, and producing a nightly radio show in Arabic from Saudi 
Arabia,” wrote Arthur Rowse in the Progressive after the war. Citizens 

The Torturers' Lobby 


for a Free Kuwait also capitalized on the publication of a quickie 
154-page book about Iraqi atrocities titled The Rape of Kuwait, copies 
of which were stuffed into media kits and then featured on TV talk 
shows and the Wall Street Journal. The Kuwaiti embassy also bought 
200,000 copies of the book for distribution to American troops. 77 

Hill & Knowlton produced dozens of video news releases at a 
cost of well over half a million dollars, but it was money well spent, 
resulting in tens of millions of dollars worth of "free" air time. The 
VNRs were shown by eager TV news directors around the world 
who rarely (if ever) identified Kuwait’s PR firm as the source of the 
footage and stories. TV stations and networks simply fed the care- 
fully-crafted propaganda to unwitting viewers, who assumed they 
were watching “real” journalism. After the war Arthur Rowse asked 
Hill & Knowlton to show him some of the VNRs, but the PR com- 
pany refused. Obviously the phony TV news reports had served their 
purpose, and it would do H&K no good to help a reporter reveal 
the extent of the deception. In Unreliable Sources, authors Martin 
Lee and Norman Solomon noted that “when a research team from 
the communications department of the University of Massachusetts 
surveyed public opinion and correlated it with knowledge of basic 
facts about US policy in the region, they drew some sobering con- 
clusions: The more television people watched, the fewer facts they 
knew; and the less people knew in terms of basic facts, the more 
likely they were to back the Bush administration.” 78 

Throughout the campaign, the Wirthlin Group conducted daily 
opinion polls to help Hill & Knowlton take the emotional pulse of 
key constituencies so it could identify the themes and slogans that 
would be most effective in promoting support for US military action. 
After the war ended, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation pro- 
duced an Emmy award-winning TV documentary on the PR cam- 
paign titled “To Sell a War.” The show featured an interview with 
Wirthlin executive Dee Alsop in which Alsop bragged of his work 
and demonstrated how audience surveys were even used to physi- 
cally adapt the clothing and hairstyle of the Kuwait ambassador so 
he would seem more likeable to TV audiences. Wirthlin’s job, Alsop 
explained, was “to identify the messages that really resonate emo- 
tionally with the American people.” The theme that struck the deep- 
est emotional chord, they discovered, was “the fact that Saddam 
Hussein was a madman who had committed atrocities even against 
his own people, and had tremendous power to do further damage, 
and he needed to be stopped.” 79 



Suffer the Little Children 

Every big media event needs what journalists and flacks alike refer 
to as “the hook.” An ideal hook becomes the central element of a 
story that makes it newsworthy, evokes a strong emotional response, 
and sticks in the memory. In the case of the Gulf War, the “hook” 
was invented by Hill & Knowlton. In style, substance and mode of 
delivery', it bore an uncanny resemblance to England's World War I 
hearings that accused German soldiers of killing babies. 

On October 10, 1990, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus 
held a hearing on Capitol Hill which provided the first opportunity 
for fonnal presentations of Iraqi human rights violations. Outwardly, 
the hearing resembled an official congressional proceeding, but 
appearances were deceiving. In reality, the Human Rights Caucus, 
chaired by California Democrat Tom Lantos and Illinois Republican 
John Porter, was simply an association of politicians. Lantos and 
Porter were also co-chairs of the Congressional Human Rights Foun- 
dation, a legally separate entity that occupied free office space val- 
ued at $3,000 a year in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington, DC office. 
Notwithstanding its congressional trappings, the Congressional 
Human Rights Caucus served as another Hill & Knowlton front group, 
which — like all front groups — used a noble-sounding name to dis- 
guise its true purpose. 80 

Only a few astute observers noticed the hypocrisy in Hill & Knowl- 
ton’s use of the term “human rights.” One of those observers was 
John MacArthur, author of The Second Front, which remains the best 
book written about the manipulation of the news media during the 
Gulf War. In the fall of 1990, MacArthur reported, Hill & Knowlton’s 
Washington switchboard was simultaneously fielding calls for the 
Human Rights Foundation and for “government representatives of 
Indonesia, another H&K client. Like H&K client Turkey, Indonesia 
is a practitioner of naked aggression, having seized . . . the former 
Portuguese colony of East Timor in 1975. Since the annexation of 
East Timor, the Indonesian government has killed, by conservative 
estimate, about 100,000 inhabitants of the region.” 81 

MacArthur also noticed another telling detail about the October 
1990 hearings: “The Human Rights Caucus is not a committee of 
congress, and therefore it is unencumbered by the legal accouter- 
ments that would make a witness hesitate before he or she lied. 

. . . Lying under oath in front of a congressional committee is a 
crime; lying from under the cover of anonymity to a caucus is merely 
public relations.” 82 

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In fact, die most emotionally moving testimony on October 10 
came from a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, known only by her first name 
of Nayirah. According to the Caucus, Nayirah’s full name was being 
kept confidential to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her family in occu- 
pied Kuwait. Sobbing, she described what she had seen with her 
own eyes in a hospital in Kuwait City. Her written testimony was 
passed out in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. “I 
volunteered at the al-Addan hospital,” Nayirah said. “While I was 
there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and 
go into the room where . . . babies were in incubators. They took 
the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the 
babies on the cold floor to die.” 83 

Three months passed between Nayirah’s testimony and the start 
of the war. During those months, the story of babies torn from 
their incubators was repeated over and over again. President Bush 
told the story. It was recited as fact in Congressional testimony, 
on TV and radio talk shows, and at the UN Security Council. “Of 
all the accusations made against the dictator,” MacArthur observed, 
“none had more impact on American public opinion than the 
one about Iraqi soldiers removing 312 babies from their incu- 
bators and leaving them to die on the cold hospital floors of 
Kuwait City.” 84 

At the Human Rights Caucus, however, Hill & Knowlton and Con- 
gressman Lantos had failed to reveal that Nayirah was a member of 
the Kuwaiti Royal Family. Her father, in fact, was Saud Nasir al-Sabah, 
Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US, who sat listening in the hearing room 
during her testimony. The Caucus also failed to reveal that H&K vice- 
president Lauri Fitz-Pegado had coached Nayirah in what even the 
Kuwaitis’ own investigators later confirmed was false testimony. 

If Nayirah’s outrageous lie had been exposed at the time it was 
told, it might ha%'e at least caused some in Congress and the news 
media to soberly reevaluate the extent to which they were being 
skillfully manipulated to support military action. Public opinion was 
deeply divided on Bush’s Gulf policy. As late as December 1990, a 
New York Times/CBS News poll indicated that 48 percent of the Amer- 
ican people wanted Bush to wait before taking any action if Iraq 
failed to withdraw from Kuwait by Bush’s January 15 deadline. 85 On 
January 12, the US Senate voted by a narrow, five-vote margin to 
support the Bush administration in a declaration of war. Given the 
narrowness of the vote, the babies-thrown-from-incubators story may 
have turned the tide in Bush’s favor. 



Following the war, human rights investigators attempted to con- 
firm Nayirah’s story and could find no witnesses or other evidence 
to support it. Amnesty International, which had fallen for the story, 
was forced to issue an embarrassing retraction. Nayirah herself was 
unavailable for comment. “This is the first allegation I’ve had that 
she was the ambassador’s daughter,” said Human Rights Caucus co- 
chair John Potter. “Yes, I think people . . . were entitled to know 
the source of her testimony." When journalists for the Canadian 
Broadcasting Corporation asked Nasir al-Sabah for permission to 
question Nayirah about her story, the ambassador angrily refused." 6 

Front-line Flacks 

The military build-up in the Persian Gulf began by flying and ship- 
ping hundreds of thousands of US troops, armaments and supplies 
to staging areas in Saudi Arabia, yet another nation with no toler- 
ance for a free press, democratic rights and most western customs. 
In a secret strategy memo, the Pentagon outlined a tighdy-woven 
plan to constrain and control journalists. A massive babysitting oper- 
ation would ensure that no tally independent or uncensored report- 
ing reached back to the US public. “News media representatives will 
be escorted at all times," the memo stated. “Repeat, at all times.” 87 

Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Pete Williams 
served as the Pentagon’s top flack for the Gulf War. Using the peren- 
nial PR strategy of “good cop/bad cop,” the government of Saudi 
Arabia played the “heavy,” denying visas and access to the US press, 
while Williams, the reporters’ friend, appeared to intercede repeat- 
edly on their behalf. This strategy kept news organizations compet- 
ing with each other for favors from Williams, and kept them from 
questioning the fundamental fact that journalistic independence was 
impossible under military escort and censorship. 

The overwhelming technological superiority of US forces won a 
decisive victory in the brief and baital war known as Desert Storm. 
Afterwards, some in the media quietly admitted that they’d been 
manipulated to produce sanitized coverage which almost entirely 
ignored the war’s human cost — today estimated at over 100,000 civil- 
ian deaths. The American public’s single most lasting memory' of the 
war will probably be the ridiculously successful video stunts supplied 
by the Pentagon showing robot “smart bombs” striking only their 
intended military' targets, without much “collateral” (civilian) damage. 

“Although influential media such as the New York Times and 
Wall Street Journal kept promoting the illusion of the ‘clean war,’ a 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


different picture began to emerge after the US stopped carpet-bomb- 
ing Iraq,” note Lee and Solomon. “The pattern underscored what 
Napoleon meant when he said that it wasn’t necessary to completely 
suppress the news; it was sufficient to delay the news until it no 
longer mattered.” 88 

Mexican Standoff 

For Hill & Knowlton, the Kuwaiti account was a sorely-needed cash 
cow, appearing at a time that the PR giant was suffering from low 
employee morale amid controversies surrounding some of its sleazier 
clients. When the Kuwaiti money dried up at the end of the war, 
Hill & Knowlton went into a precipitous decline. A series of layoffs 
and resignations at its Washington office, including a mass walkout 
of two dozen employees, reduced the staff from 250 to about 90. 
Clients began deserting the company, and rival PR firm Burson- 
Marsteller stepped in to take its place as the world’s largest PR firm. 

During die US debate over passage of the North American Free 
Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Burson-Marsteller spearheaded a PR cam- 
paign for the government of Mexico that, in dollar terms, made Hill 
St Knowlton’s campaign for Kuwait look small by comparison. Mex- 
ican business interests and the country’s ruling Institutional Revolu- 
tionary Party (PRI) spent over $50 million on PR and lobbying in the 
US alone to guarantee NAFTA’s passage. 89 And these expenditures 
in turn were small change compared to the spending on spin con- 
trol that went into the PRI’s dubious victory in Mexico’s 1994 elec- 
tions. By the mid-1990s, advertising giant Young & Rubicam, 
Burson-Marsteller’s parent corporation, was raking in yearly Mexi- 
can revenues of over $100 million. Analysts estimate that the PRI 
and its wealthy supporters spent well over $1 billion to win the 1994 
elections, compared to only $3-6 million spent by its left-wing oppo- 
sition. The money went not only to reel in voters, but also to reas- 
sure US and other foreign investors that 1994’s elections were “clean 
and honest” in contrast to the blatant electoral frauds of the past, 
and that the investment climate in Mexico would remain “favor- 
able” — i.e., low wages, access to prime markets, no environmental 
restrictions, and prompt payment on the national debt. 

To judge from the party line that prevailed in the US press during 
the early 1990s, Mexico was in the midst of an impressive economic 
renaissance — seemingly proving the wisdom of the country’s “free 
market” policies under president Carlos Salinas de Gortari. What the 
press missed, however, was the country’s growing social inequality. 



Since the inauguration of Salinas in 1988, Mexico’s 200 most pow- 
erful families had exponentially increased their wealth, thanks to 
lucrative government contracts, insider trading on Mexico’s stock 
market, and bargain-basement purchases of over 900 formerly state- 
owned enterprises. This transfer of public wealth into private hands 
created a countiy which in 1992 ranked fourth in the world in the 
number of billionaires — including extremely influential behind-the- 
scenes billionaire drug traffickers such as Carillo Fuentes with an esti- 
mated net worth of $25 billion. (By way of comparison, the world’s 
two “richest” men, according to Forbes , are William Gates, with $12.9 
billion and Warren Buffett, with $10.7 billion.) 90 

While “los ricos” were growing richer, real wages for the major- 
ity of Mexicans plummeted in the 1980s and 1990s, and an increas- 
ing number of small farmers and Indians were forced to abandon 
their subsistence landholdings. As social scientists and government 
critics point out, this is the real reason why rebels calling themselves 
the “Zapatista Army of National Liberation” rose up against the Mex- 
ican government on New Year’s day, the day that NAFTA went into 
effect. In the face of the Zapatista uprising, the facade of Mexico’s 
“economic miracle” crumbled almost instantly. A series of other inci- 
dents contributed to the country’s collapsing image: A Catholic Car- 
dinal was killed by drug traffickers in the Guadalajara airport, 
apparently with collusion from police and government officials. Sev- 
eral billionaire businessmen were kidnapped for ransom of up to 
$100 million. During the 1994 election campaign, an assassin killed 
Donaldo Colosio, the PRI’s candidate for president, and opinion polls 
showed that the majority of the Mexican people believed the assas- 
sination was the work of the PRI itself. Later that summer, the head 
of the PRI was assassinated as well, in what investigative reporters 
said was an internal party feud. Responding to these events, foreign 
investment slumped and the peso was devalued. The Mexican elite 
began transferring billions of dollars out of the country. 

Fix the Focus, Not the Problem 

Through all these crises, Burson-Marsteller and other Mexican and 
transnational PR firms demonstrated their effectiveness by working 
behind the scenes — gauging public opinion, counseling government 
and corporate leaders, shaping media coverage, and facilitating elite- 
to-elite communications. The stakes w'ere high. Currently, 66% of 
Mexico’s foreign investment comes from the US. To keep this money 
flowing, along with sufficient international loans to prevent Mexico 

The Torturers’ Lobby 


from defaulting on its S150 billion foreign debt, investors demand 
guaranteed profits and political stability. Since real stability did not 
exist, Mexico’s spin doctors worked to create the image of stability. 
As a Burson-Marsteller official in Mexico euphemistically put it, “our 
job is to build up the level of confidence of foreign investors, to 
spotlight the positive economic developments in the country.” 91 

Burson-Marsteller’s spin on the 1994 election was that the PRI — 
a notoriously corrupt institution which has used force and fraud to 
rule Mexico without interruption for nearly 70 years — had 
“reformed.” This effort at spin control, targeted in particular at inter- 
national investors, reached all the way into the Clinton White House. 
Nine days before the election, Burson-Marsteller client Santiago 
Onate, representing the Mexican Office of the President, met with 
several of President Clinton’s closest advisors, including Cabinet Chief 
Leon Panetta and National Security Council Director Anthony Lake. 
At the end of the meeting, Clinton’s advisors reassured Onate that 
the White House didn’t believe that there was “any crisis in Mexico, 
but rather just the normal anxiety that represents the transition to a 
competitive democracy.” Meanwhile, the Mexican Businessmen’s 
Council, another B-M client, was reassuring US investors that the PRI 
would cleanly win the elections — just as the polls indicated — and 
that Mexico’s investment climate would remain stable. Back in Mex- 
ico City another B-M client, the Secretary for Commerce and Indus- 
trial Development, worked to arrange a press conference featuring 
“Indian leaders” from Chiapas who denounced the Zapatista rebels 
as “violent radicals.” 92 

The elections were held on August 21, and as expected, the PRI 
swept the field, gaining the presidency and retaining overwhelming 
control over the national legislature. The US government and inter- 
national press described the elections as the “cleanest in Mexico’s 
history,” ignoring widespread evidence of voter fraud, registration 
manipulation, intimidation, bribery, illegal financial donations, par- 
tisan misuse of government resources, distorted media coverage, and 
misleading polling techniques. As in 1988, the PRI and government- 
appointed election officials refused to allow outside observers to 
compare computer tallies with the actual packets of marked ballots 
from the country’s 90,000 voter precincts. 93 

In the aftermath of the elections and a massive collapse of Mex- 
ico’s inflated economy, civil unrest intensified, with street dem- 
onstrations, riots, strikes, road blockades, seizures of city halls, and 
even armed conflicts. Leaders of the Zapatista guerrillas vowed to 



continue civil resistance until new, democratic elections are held 
under a National Constituent Assembly. 

To re-establish “stability,” the Mexican army has apparently 
adopted a strategy' of “low-intensity conflict” reminiscent of the wars 
of attrition that decimated Central America during the 1980s. This 
strategy has been studied by Global Exchange, an international orga- 
nization which sponsors frequent delegations to Chiapas, the 
poverty-stricken department in southern Mexico where the Zapatista 
rebels remain entrenched. In June 1995, a delegation to southeast- 
ern Chiapas observed “large-scale deployment of troops in the areas 
of conflict, the systematic destruction of the means of community- 
based self-sufficiency, the creation of divisions through selective 
rewards and punishments, and the gradual dismantling of indepen- 
dent bases of community organization," tactics which appear to be 
“governed by political, economic and psychological objectives.” 94 

As the world moves toward the end of the twentieth century, it 
seems to have solved many of its image problems but few of its real 
ones. Foreign policy planners have developed a frightening sophis- 
tication in their ability to combine military strategies with propaganda 
and psychological manipulation, but they have failed to eliminate 
starvation, disease, economic exploitation and violence — the root 
causes of international conflict. During the 1980s and early 1990s, 
the United States seemingly won every war it waged, but the 
untamed uprising in Chiapas suggests that these wars may have been 
mere preliminary skirmishes in a broader war that we have been 
losing. The low-intensity conflicts in Nicaragua and El Salvador 
have given way to a new conflict in which the stakes are larger and 
the battles are closer to our own national borders. While US plan- 
ners remain obsessed with images and oblivious to the real human 
needs of the poor, Latin America and the rest of the Third World 
will remain a hotbed of revolutionary' ferment, fueled by the des- 
peration of people for whom dying in batde appears preferable to 
dying of hunger. In a very' real sense, the Third World War has 
already begun — but thanks to clever public relations, it simply hasn’t 
been announced. 


All tIhe News That's Fii to PRii\T 

It’s to the point where Brit Hume, the ABC correspondent at the White 
House, plays tennis with George Bush. Tom Friedman of the New York 
Times is very close to Jim Baker. You find these relationships are so 
close that reporters don’t challenge the subjects of their stories, they 
just tell you what the government is saying. In other words, they have 
become stenographers for power and not journalists. 


Executive Director, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) 

If popular culture is any guide at all to the imagination of the 
American people, there is something sacred about the news. Jour- 
nalists, along with private detectives and police, seem to occupy a 
special place as the ministers of truth and wisdom in our society. 
The archetypal image for all three professions is the “little guy” with 
the common touch — picture Columbo, Lou Grant or Phil Marlowe — 
dressed in cheap clothes, cynical, smoking a cigar, fond of a drink 
at the local tavern, working odd hours, bothering people, persistent, 
smart beneath that rumpled exterior, piecing together clues, finding 
contradictions, relentless and inquisitive, refusing to let go of an 
investigation until the truth is exposed and the villains receive their 
just punishment. This image of the journalistic profession has been 
the backdrop for a number of popular plays, novels, films and tele- 
vision shows, including “Citizen Kane,” “His Girl Friday," “Meet John 
Doe,” “The Front Page,” “The Paper” and “Murphy Brown.” Of course 
mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent is the alter-ego of Superman, the 
ultimate comic-book hero, who spends much of his time rescuing 
fellow reporters Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen when their journalistic 
curiosity gets them into trouble. Hollywood turned to real life in “All 




the President’s Men,” in which Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman 
portray Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bern- 
stein in their investigation of President Nixon's role in the Watergate 
scandal. The final scene of the movie visually dramatizes the power 
of the press when the camera zooms in on a clattering newsroom 
teletype as it prints out a sequence of bulletins from the Watergate 
affair, culminating in the terse headline: “NIXON RESIGNS.” 

Today — more than 20 years after Watergate — the saga of Wood- 
ward and Bernstein is related in high school textbooks as an exam- 
ple of the power of muckraking journalism. To perpetuate the 
mythology of the crusading press, many newspaper mastheads carry 
mottos such as Thomas Jefferson’s statement that “the only security 
of all is a free press.” Americans grow up believing that the free press, 
so cherished and constitutionally protected, is a fierce watchdog of 
the public interest, and that when societal or political wrongs are 
splashed across page one of the New York Times or aired on 60 Min- 
utes, our democratic system in some automatic way responds to right 
the wrongs. 

But schoolbooks often fail to mention that Woodward and Bern- 
stein were virtually alone in their dogged pursuit of the Watergate 
scandal, which occurred in the midst of a presidential election yet 
had absolutely no impact on the election outcome. According to Proj- 
ect Censored, a phone call from the Nixon White House was all it 
took to persuade CBS chair William Paley to scale back Walter 
Cronkite’s attempt to do an extraordinary two-part series about 
Watergate on the CBS Evening News before the election. Nixon was 
re-elected by an overwhelming margin, and wasn’t forced to resign 
until two years after the burglary. Even then, the real “heroes” include 
a still-unknown whistleblower dubbed “Deep Throat" and Nixon’s 
own arrogance in leaving behind expletive-loaded tape recordings 
of his self-incriminating involvement in a cover-up. Even Woodward 
and Bernstein were never able to explain important aspects about 
the scandal, such as White House motivations behind the Watergate 
break-in, or Deep Throat’s reasons for coming forward. 

Hard Pressed 

The romantic mythology surrounding the journalistic profession 
attracts many more would-be reporters than there are jobs available. 
In reality, as most working reporters readily admit, die profession is 
a far cry from its image. Reporters are notoriously underpaid and 
overworked. While researching this book, we encountered one 

All the News that’s Fit to Print 


reporter with a small-town daily paper who was earning an annual 
income of S 13,000 in 1994 while working 60-hour weeks — less than 
he could have earned flipping hamburgers. Sitting below a poster 
of Rush Limbaugh which the newspaper management had mounted 
on the wall of his break room, the reporter described how the paper 
had ordered him and his fellow reporters to falsify time cards so it 
would appear they were only working 40 hours per week — thus 
enabling management to violate minimum-wage laws. We contacted 
a state labor official who assured us that if the reporter kept good 
records, he could document the fraud and force the paper to pay 
him for his uncompensated labor. The reporter, however, was afraid 
that he would be fired if he filed a complaint, and we were left won- 
dering: Is someone who collaborates this easily with covering up his 
own exploitation even capable of investigating and exposing the 
larger wrongs in his community? 

In a democracy, a free and independent press is counted upon 
to provide the information and opinions that fuel public debate, 
expose corruption, illuminate major social issues, and enable an 
informed citizenry to make participatory decisions. Today’s reality, 
however, is ever more distant from this lofty ideal. Journalism is in 
fact in demise, and its collapse is opening ever more opportunities 
for PR practitioners to increase their influence in the news room. 

To begin with, the media itself is a huge, profitable business, the 
domain of fewer and fewer giant transnational corporations. “Modern 
technology and American economics have quietly created a new kind 
of central authority over information," writes media critic Ben 
Bagdikian in The Media Monopoly , his landmark 1982 expose. “By 
the 1980s, the majority of all major American media — newspapers, 
magazines, radio, television, books, and movies — were controlled 
by fifty giant corporations. These corporations were interlocked in 
common financial interest with other massive industries and with a 
few dominant international banks.” Bagdikian concedes that “There 
are other media voices outside the control of the dominant fifty cor- 
porations,” but “most are small and localized . . . their diminutive 
sounds tend to be drowned by the controlled thunder of half the 
media power of a great society.” 1 

When Bagdikian updated his book in 1993, he was alarmed to 
find that during the ensuing decade media concentration had accel- 
erated so that fewer than 20 giant corporations owned over half 
of all media. When we interviewed him in August 1995, he said the 
situation is “worsening so quickly and dramatically that it’s hard 



now to even get a number to compare. Suddenly there are big new 
actors in the media business, super-giant corporations like Disney, 
Time-Wamer, TCI cable TV, and telephone companies. The mag- 
nitude of the players is incredibly large. Increasingly corporate 
giants and super-giants are working together in joint ventures; 
for instance, Turner is partly owned by Time-Warner and TCI. Jour- 
nalism, news and public information have been integrated formally 
into the highest levels of financial and non-journalistic corporate 
control. Conflicts of interest between the public’s need for informa- 
tion and corporate desires for ‘positive’ information have vastly 
increased .” 2 

“I generally agree with those who bemoan the decline of jour- 
nalism for sensationalism and titillation,” said Buck Donham, a for- 
mer newspaper editor who has worked for papers in Arkansas and 
Hawaii. “I blame at least part of this decline on the trend of large 
corporations to buy up both major and minor news media. Back in 
the good old days, most medium or small newspapers were owned 
by families, some of whom lovingly passed along their publications 
to the next generation. I worked for one such newspaper, the 
Arkansas Gazette, which at the time was the oldest newspaper west 
of the Mississippi. The pay was atrocious, $85 a week in 1965, but 
the prestige of working for such a news organization more than made 
up for the small salary.” 

When corporations buy up a local paper, Donham says, standards 
usually decline: 

They practice what I call bottom-line journalism’ — which means, to 
quote the late Don Reynolds, editorial material is the ‘gray matter that 
fills up the space between the ads.’ Here’s how these corporations 
work: After buying up a small or medium-sized newspaper with much 
fanfare, the companies make a lot of noises about local editorial con- 
trol, promising not to interfere with the editorial content of the pub- 
lication. They frequently keep on the old editor. Slowly, however, they 
exert their control, and the editor usually leaves after she months to 
a year after purchase. They cut the newspaper’s staff to the bare min- 
imum it takes to put out tire publication on a daily or weekly basis; 

. . . they stop reinvesting any of the profits in the product and instead 
ship all profits made back to corporate headquarters; they de-empha- 
size the news and emphasize advertising and circulation revenue. 

After about a year or so, you have an extremely streamlined oper- 
ation. What remains of the editorial staff is humping so hard just to 
get the paper out, there is no time to do in-depth or investigative 
reporting. Needless to say, it makes for superficial journalism and news 

All the News that’s Fit to Print 


by press release. If they don’t quit, hard-pressed and bitter reporters 
resign themselves to covering the superficial and the easy, to relying 
on press releases or on breaking, easy-to-cover stories, such as the 
O.J. Simpson case. Reporters simply don’t have the time, and after a 
while, the inclination to do anything in depth. 3 

This environment may be demoralizing to journalists, but it offers 
a veritable hog’s heaven to the public relations industry. In their 1985 
book, PR: How the Public Relations Industry Writes the News, authors 
Jeff & Marie Blyskal write that “PR people know how the press thinks. 
Thus they are able to tailor their publicity so that journalists will listen 
and cover it. As a result much of the news you read in newspapers 
and magazine or watch on television and hear on radio is heavily 
influenced and slanted by public relations people. Whole sections 
of the news are virtually owned by PR. . . . Newspaper food pages 
are a PR man’s paradise, as are the entertainment, automotive, real 
estate, home improvement and living sections. . . . Unfortunately 
‘news’ hatched by a PR person and journalist working together looks 
much like real news dug up by enterprising journalists working inde- 
pendently. The public thus does not know which news stories and 
journalists are playing servant to PR.’’ 4 

Today the number of PR flacks in the United States outnumbers 
working journalists, and the gap is widening. A working reporter is 
deluged daily with dozens if not hundreds of phone calls, letters, 
faxes and now e-mailed press releases. Pam Berns, the publisher of 
Chicago Life magazine, estimates that her office receives at least 100 
PR contacts each and every day. “It’s annoying and overwhelming,” 
says Berns. 5 

PR Newswire claims to be “the world’s acknowledged leader in 
the distribution of corporate, association and institutional informa- 
tion to the media and the financial community” for forty years. The 
firm has 19 offices in the US and distributes some 100,000 news 
releases a year to some 2,000 newsrooms for more than 15,000 clients. 
Other PR distribution services specialize in placing stories in news- 
papers through the mass distribution of PR-written feature articles 
and opinion pieces which are simply picked up as “real” news. 6 The 
North American Precis Syndicate, for example, sends camera-ready 
stories on behalf of most of the top PR firms and most Fortune 500 
companies to 10,000 newspapers, almost all of whom reprint some 
of the material. The stories are designed to promote products, or 
serve clients’ political agendas. “Lobbyists love it,” claims NAPS’ pro- 
motional material. “You generate tons of letters to legislators.” 7 



A similar business, RadioUSA, “supplies broadcast quality news 
scripts to 5,000 radio stations throughout the countiy. . . . We’ll write, 
typeset, print and distribute broadcast quality scripts . . . We give 
you usage reports based on station verifications.” Hard-pressed radio 
journalists greet these canned scripts with relief rather than suspi- 
cion. “When your job is to come up with hundreds of story ideas 
eveiy month, RadioUSA helps,” says Suzan Vaughn, news director 
at KVEC in San Luis Obispo, California. Max Kolbe, the news direc- 
tor at KKIN in Aitkin, MN, describes RadioUSA as “a lifesaver on a 
slow news day.” 8 

Even the media itself is getting into the PR distribution act. The 
Associated Press now makes money distributing electronically digi- 
tized PR photos to over 400 newspapers that have agreed to receive 
them. On June 24, 1994, for example, the New York Times ran a 
prominent article announcing that Federal Express had formally 
changed its name to “FedEx" — not exactly an earth-shattering expose. 
In fact, the story resulted from a PR campaign by FedEx. A photo 
accompanying the story showed a FedEx jet, and the photo credit 
simply read “Associated Press.” Actually, Federal Express paid AP to 
electronically distribute the PR photo, which was staged and taken 
by the Federal Express company rather than an AP photographer. 9 

Is It Real Or Is It Memorex? 

The use of radio and video news releases is a little-known practice 
which took hold during the 1980s, when PR firms discovered that 
they could film, edit and produce their own news segments — even 
entire programs — and that broadcasters would play the segments as 
“news,” often with no editing. When Gray & Company began pro- 
ducing a radio program for its clients called “Washington Spotlight,” 
the Mutual Radio Network came to Gray and asked to carry it. “PR 
firms would not send out packaged radio and television stories if no 
one was using them,” notes author Susan Trento. “Not only technol- 
ogy, but economics made things easier for PR firms in the 1980s.” 

Video news releases, known as VNRs, typically come packaged 
with two versions of die story die PR firm is tiying to promote. The 
first version is fully edited, with voiceovers already included or with 
a script indicating where the station’s local news anchor should read 
his or her lines. The second version is known as “B-roll,” and con- 
sists of the raw footage that was used to produce the fully-edited 
version. The receiving station can edit the B-roll footage itself, or 
combine it with other footage received from other sources. “There 

All the News that’s Fit to Print 


are two economics at work here on the television side,” explains a 
Gray & Company executive. “The big stations don’t want prepack- 
aged, pretaped. They have the money, the budget, and the man- 
power to put their own together. But the smaller stations across the 
country lap up stuff like this.” 10 

MediaLink, a PR firm that distributed about half of the 4,000 VNRs 
made available to newscasters in 1991, conducted a survey of 92 
newsrooms and found that all 92 used VNRs supplied free by PR 
firms and subtly slanted to sell a clients' products and ideas while 
appearing to be “real” TV news. On June 13, 1991, for example, the 
CBS Evening News ran a segment on the hazards of automatic safety 
belts. According to David Lieberman, author of a 1992 article titled 
“Fake News,” the safety belt tape “was part of a ‘video news release’ 
created by ... a lobby group largely supported by lawyers.” 11 

“VNRs are as much a public relations fixture as the print news 
release,” stated George Glazer, a senior vice-president of Hill & 
Knowlton. “In fact, many public relations firms are well into the sec- 
ond generation of VNR technology. We use satellite transmissions 
from our own facilities almost on a daily basis, and wait eagerly for 
fiber optics systems to allow us to dial into nationwide networks. 
. . . With few exceptions, broadcasters as a group have refused to 
participate in any kinds of standards establishment for VNRs, in part 
because they rarely will admit to using them on the air. . . . There 
are truly hundreds of examples of self-denial on the part of broad- 
casters when it comes to admitting that VNRs are used.” Following 
a beverage-tampering scare on the West Coast, for example, a VNR 
was mailed out to all three TV stations in the first city to report the 
problem. All three stations used the VNR in at least one newscast 
the following day, along with five other stations in the region. When 
asked later, however, all three stations denied that they had broad- 
cast the material. 12 

In 1985, Trento reports, Gray & Company distributed a VNR fea- 
turing a canned interview with one of its clients, the ruthless King 
Hassan II of Morocco. The segment’s airing on CNN provoked a scan- 
dal with reporters claiming they had been tricked into airing paid 
propaganda. An executive at Gray & Company scoffed at the media’s 
hypocrisy: “I used to read in Broadcasting the cache of letters from 
news directors after the story broke about electronic news releases 
saying, ‘How despicable. Never in a thousand years!’ And they were 
people I had talked to who had called me back so that they had the 
right coordinates on the satellite so that they could take the feed. 



They knew exactly who we were. They called us all the time. They 
asked us for stuff. They told us they couldn’t get it. They forgot to 
turn their downlink on, and could we send them a hard copy FedEx 
overnight because they’d use it tomorrow night.” 

“1 was personally aggrieved at all this sort of self-righteousness 
of the media when that story broke,” said another Gray & Company 
executive. “They are free to use it. Not use it. Use it for B-roll. Write 
their own scripts. Most of them take it straight off the air and broad- 
cast it. Rip and read. Rip and read.” 13 

Watching the Detectives 

In theory, journalism is a “watchdog” profession, which serves the 
public by finding and reporting on abuses of power. In practice, 
reporters live under closer scrutiny than the people they are sup- 
posed to be monitoring. 

Fonner Wall Street Journal reporter Dean Rotbart has carved a 
niche for himself within the PR industry by compiling dossiers on 
his former colleagues so that his corporate clients know how to 
manipulate individual members of the media. Rotbart’s firm — called 
TJFR Products and Services — publishes this infonnation in high- 
priced newsletters and delivers customized workshops and reports. 

Rotbart told a 1993 meeting of the Public Relations Society of 
America that his workshops and newsletters help PR professionals 
know “what a journalist is thinking. . . . One of the services we pro- 
vide is taking biographies of reporters from all over the country — 
something like 6,000 biers — in our computer system, and if at any 
point you get a call from a journalist and don't know who it is, call 
up and we will fax you that bio within an hour.” 14 

These bios are a regular feature in a new Rotbart publication, the 
TJFR Environmental News Reporter. Promotional literature boasts that 
this $395-a-year PR resource is “tailored to serve the needs of com- 
munications professionals who deal with environmental issues. . . . 
Let us be your eyes and ears when the environmental media con- 
vene. . . . Gather vital information on key journalists . . . Who’s the 
boss? . . . How do you break the ice? . . . Not only will you find 
news on journalists, we’ll tell you what they want from you and what 
strategies you can employ with them to generate more positive stories 
and better manage potentially negative situations.” 15 

The premier issue of Rotbart’s newsletter includes a long piece 
on CNN’s Environment Unit, with biographies of all its top staff. It 
explains, for example, that Peter Dykstra worked for Greenpeace 

Alt the Mews that 's Fit to Print 


for 11 years and attended Boston University’s College of Communi- 
cations. The issue also contains an interview with Emilia Askari of 
the Detroit Free Press The accompanying bio explains that Askari is 
president of the Society of Environmental Journalists and “enjoys all 
kinds of outdoor activities and tutors illiterate adults with Literacy 
Volunteers of America.” In addition to this information, the story tells 
PR managers whom to contact if they want to complain about some- 
thing that Askari writes: “Chain of command: Reports to Bob Camp- 
bell, assistant city editor.” 16 

Some PR finns specialize in tracking specific issues and compil- 
ing reports on the journalists writing stories. Rowan & Blewitt, 
a Washington, DC, PR firm, conducted in depth analyses for the 
dairy industry, analyzing media coverage of the rBGH issue to 
“help answer these questions: Has the coverage been sensational- 
istic. . . . Has the coverage favored the anti-[rBGH] views? . . . How 
does the coverage of [rBGH] compare with the volume of coverage 
on Alar? Air emissions? . . . Alaskan oil spills?” Detailed charts 
and graphs examined virtually every story on rBGH over an extended 
period of time. 17 Another media monitoring firm, CARMA Interna- 
tional, also worked on the rBGH account and ranked individual 
reporters based on whether their stories were “favorable” or “unfa- 
vorable” to rBGH. 18 

The February 1995 issue of the newsletter Environment Writer 
reports on another PR effort to get inside the heads of journalists — 
laboratory research using 12 real journalists as paid guinea pigs to 
help develop a PR strategy for DuPont pesticides. DuPont flacks 
recruited participants by sending an invitation to “selected members 
of the media,” which promised: “This learning endeavor will be used 
to help DuPont establish new policies regarding pesticides: their use 
and information important to consumers, the government, farmers 
and the press. . . . Your ethics as a journalist (and that of your news 
organization) will not be violated or jeopardized in any way. . . . 
The goal is to make better pesticide policies.” 19 

One participant who asked not to be named said, “They would 
give us small pieces of paper which would say something like, 
'DuPont makes very wonderful chemicals, and no one needs to 
worry.’ ’’Journalists were then told to develop a storyline based on 
the information on the slip of paper, while DuPont researchers 
observed from behind a mirrored window. When their work was 
done the reporters were handed envelopes that contained $250 cash. 
“I came out of there and I felt really disgusted that I had to earn 



money in this kind of way,” said one journalist who participated in 
the study. 20 

PR firms also hire real journalists to participate in training sessions 
so flacks can hone their skills in handling media situations. In Siena 
Magazine, reporter Dashka Slater describes her experience working 
for Robert J. Meyers and Associates, a Houston-based consulting firm 
that hired her and two other journalists to help ARCO Petroleum 
practice its PR plan for handling the news media following envi- 
ronmental disasters. In a staged run-through of an oil spill, Slater 
and the other reporters were assigned to play the part of the “preda- 
tory press.” Professional actors were brought in to play the part of 
environmentalists. ARCO employees and government officials played 
themselves. “The drills give company flacks the opportunity to prac- 
tice varnishing the truth just in case the mop-up doesn’t go as 
planned,” wrote Slater. “Mostly the company and government 
spokespeople did what they had learned to do in numerous media- 
training workshops: convey as little information as possible in as 
many words as possible.” In the past 6 years Meyers and Associates 
have conducted more than 400 such training drills. 21 

A number of firms offer clipping and database services used to 
monitor the media. For a fee of $1,000 per month, for example, orga- 
nizations can subscribe to NEXIS/LEXIS, which contains the full text 
of media stories appearing in a wide range of newspapers, maga- 
zines, newsletters and TV and radio programs. A skilled researcher 
can search for mention of a specific word and obtain articles from 
hundreds of publications. Clipping services are also available which 
charge a reading fee to provide virtually instant reports on stories 
appearing in the media which relate to clients’ interest. 

To monitor TV coverage, for example, Video Monitoring Services 
advertises that it “records all news and public affairs programs on 
local TV stations in more than 130 markets, local radio stations in 
14 markets and national broadcast TV, cable TV and radio networks.” 
VMS also monitors stories in more than 20 countries including Aus- 
tralia, Canada, Germany, Israel and Japan. The company notifies its 
clients immediately which stories it has snagged off the airwaves that 
correspond to a list of "keywords” the client has provided. The key- 
words can be “executives, company names, brand names, events, 
general or specific topics, etc." Such intelligence can assist PR firms 
in identifying sympathetic or cooperative reporters and editors, pres- 
suring or punishing reporters who file unsympathetic stories, and 
measuring the impact of coverage upon public opinion. 22 

All the News that's Fit to Print 


Careful overnight telephone surveys can also help a corporation 
decide how, or even whether, to respond to a breaking story on a 
news program like 60 Minutes. Before such instant surveys were 
available, a corporation exposed on national TV for crimes or cor- 
ruption might feel compelled to immediately hold a news confer- 
ence. Today, if overnight polling shows that the 60 Minutes expose 
had little impact on viewers, PR consultants advise their clients to 
simply ignore the report rather than risk drawing attention to it. 
Surveys can also reveal strategic approaches to crafting a response — 
perhaps the polling shows some sympathy for the corporation or 
other opinions that can be exploited in a carefully designed response 
the next day. 

Experts Agree 

The advertising industry learned years ago that one of the best ways 
to influence an audience is to put its message in the mouth of a 
publicly-trusted expert such as a scientist, doctor or university pro- 
fessor. A whole genre of TV commercials has evolved featuring actors 
dressed in white laboratory coats who announce that “research 
proves" their brand is the best product on the market. The PR indus- 
try has also mastered the art of using “third party” experts, a ruse 
which almost never fails to hoodwink supposedly cynical reporters. 

Via the internet, for example, public relations representatives 
“assist” the news media through an on-line service called Profnet, 
based at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. Journal- 
ists in search of information are invited to simply e-mail their request 
to Profnet, which distributes it to over 800 PR representatives of 
research institutions in 16 countries. The flacks then find professors 
or researchers to answer the questions. Needless to say, this “free” 
information helps shape the spin of the story in a direction the PR 
representative is trying to promote. 23 

Corporations also fund “nonprofit research institutes” which pro- 
vide “third party experts” to advocate on their behalf. The American 
Council on Science and Health (ACSH), for example, is a commonly- 
used industry front group that produces PR ammunition for the food 
processing and chemical industries. Headed by Elizabeth Whelan, 
ACSH routinely represents itself as an “independent,” “objective” sci- 
ence institute. This claim was dissected by Howard Kurtz of the 
Washington Post in the March 1990 Columbia Journalism Review, 
which studied the special interests that fund ACSH. Kurtz reported 
that Whelan praises the nutritional virtues of fast food and receives 



money from Burger King. She downplays the link between a high 
fat diet and heart disease, while receiving binding from Oscar Mayer, 
Frito Lay and Land O’Lakes. She defends saccharin and receives 
money from Coca-Cola, Pepsi, NutraSweet and the National Soft 
Drink Association. Whelan attacks a Nebraska businessman’s caisade 
against fatty tropical oils — the unhealthy oils in movie popcorn — 
while she is in the pay of palm oil special interests. '‘There has never 
been a case of ill health linked to the regulated, approved use of 
pesticides in this country,” she claims, while taking money from a 
host of pesticide makers. And Whelan speaks harshly of mainstream 
environmentalists, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council. 
Speaking to the Bcmgor Daily News, Whelan described the NRDC as 
an “ideologically fueled project” whose “target is the free-enterprise, 
corporate America system. 1 think they hate the word ‘profit’ and 
they’ll do anything that will involve corporate confrontation." 24 

Whelan defends her “scientific” views by saying that her findings 
have undergone “peer review” by experts among the scientists affil- 
iated with her group. But Michael Jacobson of the Center for Sci- 
ence in the Public Interest dismisses the bona fides of such “peer 
review” scientists: “They don’t exactly publish in leading scientific 
journals. They publish pamphlets that are reviewed by their profes- 
sional cronies of the regulated industries. It’s science that’s forced 
through a sieve of conservative philosophy." 

Journalists rarely check the background of sources, so Whelan and 
the American Council on Science and Health are often quoted in the 
news as “scientific experts.” For example, in a show hosted by Walter 
Cronkite titled “Big Fears, Little Risks,” Cronkite introduced Whelan 
as one of “a growing number of scientists who fear that overstating 
the risk of environmental chemicals is actually threatening the health 
of Americans.” In Fortune magazine, Whelan appeared as the source 
in a story by Ann Reilly Dowd which stated, “A big part of the prob- 
lem is that America’s environmental policy making has increasingly 
been driven more by media hype and partisan politics than by sen- 
sible science. . . . Despite the waves of panic that roll over America 
each year, some 500 scientists surveyed by the American Council on 
Science and Health have concluded that the threat to life from envi- 
ronmental hazards is negligible.” Neither Cronkite nor Dowd 
explained that the ACSH is an industry front group. 25 

Rhys Roth of the Northwest Atmosphere Protection Coalition con- 
tinually goes up against industry “science" as he tries to raise public 
concern about the greenhouse effect and ozone depletion. Roth says 

All the News that’s Fit to Print 


scientists like Whelan — who speaks of the “ allegedly depleting ozone 
layer” — are “atmosphere confusionists” who achieve their goal by 
“simply sowing enough confusion in the minds of Americans about 
the science behind the greenhouse effect to defuse our collective 
concern and outrage, rendering us politically mute.” 26 

The Truth About Tumors 

Whelan and other “experts" use creative manipulation of statistics to 
obscure the rising rate of cancer in industrialized nations. “We also 
know there is no cancer epidemic,” she says. “Most cancer rates have 
been constant for decades. . . . What a marvelous time to live, and 
to be born! We are giving ourselves and our children the gift of bet- 
ter and longer lives.” 

This claim was repeated by David Shaw of the Los Angeles Times 
in a senes of articles examining environmental health risks. Shaw 
took his information from Resources for the Future (RFF), a pro- 
industry group that he described as a “think tank that specializes in 
environmental issues.” Shaw quoted RFF vice-president Paul Portney: 
“If everything is as harmful as we’re told, how come we’re healthier 
and living longer . . . than ever before?” Shaw also turned to the 
National Cancer Institute, a government agency with close ties to 
the chemical and pharmaceutical industiy. According to the Institute, 
“the age-adjusted mortality rate for all cancers combined except lung 
cancer has been declining since 1950, except for those 85 and over.” 27 

These statistics, however, paint a misleading picture. Research by 
Samuel Epstein at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, 
published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, shows that 
the incidence of all types of cancer, excluding lung cancer, rose by 
29.1 percent during the period from 1950 to 1988. Contrary to the 
National Cancer Institute’s claims, the British medical journal Lancet 
reported in 1990 that the death rate from brain and other central ner- 
vous system cancers, breast cancer, multiple myeloma, kidney can- 
cer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and melanoma has been increasing 
over the past 20 years in persons age 55 and older in the US and 
five other industrialized nations. 28 

Improved medical care, not a decline in cancer rates, has kept 
cancer mortality rates from jumping dramatically. “The extent to 
which mortality rates can obscure trends in the incidence of cancer 
is clearly and tragically demonstrated by childhood cancer statistics,” 
states author David Steinman. According to the National Cancer Insti- 
tute, deaths from childhood cancers decreased between 1973 and 



1987. Yet between 1950 and 1988, the incidence of childhood can- 
cers among whites increased 21.3 percent. 29 

Notwithstanding the comforting assurances from industry front 
groups, most independent scientists recognize that cancer rates are 
increasing and that industrial chemicals play a critical role in this 
increase. The National Cancer Institute itself recognizes asbestos, ben- 
zene, arsenic, aromatic amines, coal tars, vinyl chloride, chromium 
and wood dust as carcinogens. 30 A growing body of scientific evi- 
dence links pesticides to escalating rates of certain kinds of cancer 
in farmers. 31 “We are just beginning to understand the full range of 
health effects resulting from the exposure to occupational and envi- 
ronmental agents and factors,” admits a recent NCI report. “Lack of 
appreciation of the potential hazards of environmental and food 
source contaminants, and laws, policies and regulations protecting 
and promoting tobacco use, worsen the cancer problem and drive 
up health care costs.” 32 

Revolving Doors 

Media critics note that the media habitually fails to report on itself; 
it also fails to report on the PR industry. To do so would reveal the 
extent of its dependency on PR for access, sources, quotes, stories 
and ideas. According to authors Jeff and Marie Blyskal, “the press 
has grown frighteningly dependent on public relations people. Out- 
siders — the reading and viewing public — would have a hard time 
discovering this on their own because the dependence on PR is part 
of behind-the-scenes press functioning. . . . Meanwhile, like an alco- 
holic who can't believe he has a drinking problem, members of the 
press are too close to their own addiction to PR to realize there is 
anything wrong. In fact, the press which has a seemingly inborn cyn- 
ical, arrogant, down-the-nose view of public relations, seems sadly 
self-deceptive about the true press/PR relationship.” 33 

Canned news and industry-supplied “experts” are effective 
because they appeal to budget-conscious news organizations. When 
a TV news show airs a video news release, the PR firm that pro- 
duced the segment pays for all the costs of scripting, filming and 
editing. Likewise, PR-supplied experts enable reporters to produce 
authentic-sounding stories with a minimum of time and effort. The 
public rarely notices the self-serving bias that creeps into the news 
along with these subtle subsidies. 

Sometimes the financial pressures that influence the news are 
more direct. In Canada, PR giant Burson-Marsteller’s work for the 

All the News that 's Fit to Print 


British Columbia timber industry became the subject of investigation 
by Ben Parfitt, forestry reporter for the daily Vancouver Sun. In 1991, 
however, Burson-Marsteller picked up the Sun as a client, and edi- 
torial policy shifted. Before Burson-Marsteller went to work for the 
Sun, the paper employed five full-time reporters to cover forestry, 
fisheries, native affairs, energy and mines, and environment. Today 
only the environment position remains, and the reporter on that beat 
has been instructed to cover environmental issues in Greater Van- 
couver and the lower mainland, an area which is conveniently dis- 
tant from the Clayoquot Sound, where Burson-Marsteller is helping 
fell one of the last large areas of intact coastal temperate rainforest 
in the world. 55 

Parfitt sold an article to another publication, The Georgia Straight, 
that discussed Burson-Marsteller's past history, such as the company’s 
PR work to clean up Argentina’s international image at a time when 
the Argentinean military was murdering thousands of political dissi- 
dents. Parfitt also reported that Ken Rietz, a senior Burson-Marsteller 
employee and timber industry consultant, was a key Watergate con- 
spirator. Following the publication of Parfitt’s article, the Sun pulled 
him from the forest beat. “My personal experience in trying to cut 
through Burson-Marsteller was not greeted with favor by the paper,” 
he says. 55 

Corporate advertisers have enormous power to influence news 
coverage, despite editors' statements to the contrary. Large corpo- 
rations pump $100 billion per year in advertising dollars into the 
coffers of the US media alone. Ben Bagdikian points out that “select- 
ing news in order to make advertising more effective is becoming 
so common that it has achieved the status of scientific precision and 
publishing wisdom.” PR executive Robert Dilenschneider admits that 
“the notion that business and editorial decisions in the press and 
media are totally separate is largely a myth.” 56 

Mergers, buyouts and new electronic technologies are all hasten- 
ing the crumbling of walls that supposedly separate news reporting, 
advertising, and PR. Two of the biggest global PR firms, Burson- 
Marsteller and Hill & Knowlton, are owned by two of the biggest 
advertising conglomerates, respectively Young & Rubicam and the 
WPP Group. These two PR/advertising giants purchase billions of 
dollars of media print space, TV and radio time. Their clients include 
Philip Morris, McDonald’s, Ford Motor Company, Johnson & John- 
son, AT&T, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, NutraSweet, Revlon. Reebok, and hun- 
dreds of other major advertisers. 



In 1992 the nonprofit Center for the Study of Commercialism 
invited some 200 journalists to a Washington, DC, news conference 
where the Center released a report titled Dictating Content: How 
Advertising Pressure Can Cornipt a Free Press. The scholarly report 
documented dozens of instances of media self-censorship “imposed 
by advertisers and advertising-related pressures.” Almost none of the 
invited journalists came to the news conference, and the report was 
virtually ignored in the news, prompting “Project Censored,” a media 
watchdog project of Sonoma State College, to name Dictating Con- 
tent as one of the ten “best censored” stories of 1992. 37 

Corporations have found that one good way to curry favors with 
the media is to court individual journalists who have become media 
celebrities, offering them large sums of money for a brief appear- 
ance and talk. During the 1993-94 debate over health care reform, 
the National Journal reported that drug companies and trade asso- 
ciations were “practically throwing money at journalists to get them 
to speak at their events.” Media figures including Fred Barnes of 
the New Republic, Eleanor Clift and Jane Bryant Quinn of Newsweek, 
Dr. Bob Arnot of CBS and Dr. Art Ulene of ABC collected speaking 
fees ranging up to $25,000. 3tl More recently, the Political Pittance & 
Lobby Reporter noted in June 1995 that “ABC News’ Cokie Roberts 
accepted a $35,000 fee for a speech last May to the Junior League 
of Greater Fort Lauderdale that was subsidized by JM Family Enter- 
prises, a privately-held $4.2 billion company that distributes Toyotas. 

. . . Roberts refused to discuss her speaking fee. ‘She feels strongly 
that it’s not something that in any way, shape or form should be dis- 
cussed in public,' ABC spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said when 
American Journalism Review reporter Alicia Shephard requested 
an interview.” 39 

Most reporters, of course, never achieve the celebrity status that 
enables them to cash in on the speaking circuit. Corporate con- 
glomeration and “downsizing" has brought hard times to the news- 
room. Many journalists find themselves forced out of their chosen 
profession when they enter their thirties and find it difficult to sup- 
port a family, save for retirement and fund college for the kids on 
a reporter’s limited salary. They see former schoolmates and col- 
leagues leaving journalism to earn more money in public relations, 
and the original dream of becoming another Woodward or Bern- 
stein begins to look naive and ridiculous. “The revolving door also 
contributes to the blurred reality projected by the powerhouse PR 
firms,” writes Vermont newspaper reporter John Dillon. “This door 

All the News that ’s Fit to Print 


not only spins between the government and lobbies but between 
the press corps and the PR firms. Like Capitol Hill aides who trade 
in their access and expertise for a lobbyist’s salary, burned-out or 
broke reporters can be tempted by the greener and more lucrative 
pastures offered by PR companies .” 40 

According to author Susan Trento, this revolving door — and the 
collaboration it fosters among elite groups in Washington — account 
for much of the gridlock in America’s political process. “Nothing 
seems to change. Nothing seems to get done. Nothing seems to get 
cleaned up. From Watergate to Koreagate to Debategate to the HUD 
scandals to BCCI, it .seems that the same people are doing the same 
things over and over, and never getting punished — and no one seems 
to care. The triangle — the media, the government, and the lobbying 
and PR firms — protect each other.” 4 ' 

The Information Superhypeway 

The news media is presently undergoing a technological transfor- 
mation as the “information superhighway” enters the mainstream of 
American culture. Its backbone, the internet, began as a military com- 
munications system and evolved into an inexpensive, government- 
subsidized melange of arcane computerese and loosely-organized 
data on obscure academic topics ranging from bee migration patterns 
in Brazil to verb valence structures in Old Saxon. As computer tech- 
nology brings a user-friendlier version of the internet to a wider spec- 
trum of users, it has become an object of intense corporate interest. 

Hyped as the ultimate in “electronic democracy,” the information 
superhighway will supposedly offer “a global cornucopia of pro- 
gramming" offering instant, inexpensive access to nearly infinite 
libraries of data, educational material and entertainment. In some cir- 
cles, the hype surrounding the information age has reached evan- 
gelical proportions, as its enthusiasts predict a revolutionary new 
utopian era in which the “the technologies of communication will 
serve to enlarge human freedom everywhere, to create inevitably a 
counsel of the people .” 42 

Other observers see darker possibilities on the horizon, and point 
out that similar hype surrounded the introduction of older media 
technologies such as the telephone, radio and television. Given that 
a handful of corporations now control most media, media historian 
Robert McChesney writes that it is “no surprise that the private sector, 
with its immense resources, has seized the initiative and is com- 
mercializing cyberspace at a spectacular rate — effectively trans- 



forming it into a giant shopping mall.” He predicts “a flurry of com- 
petition followed by the establishment of a stable oligopoly domi- 
nated by a handful of enormous firms ... a world of information 
haves and have-nots, thereby exacerbating our society’s already con- 
siderable social and economic inequality.” 43 

PR firms are jumping on the online bandwagon, establishing 
“world wide web" sites and using surveys and games to gather mar- 
keting and opinion information about the users of cyberspace, and 
developing new techniques to target and reach reporters and other 
online users. 

The information superhighway is only one of the technologies 
enabling PR firms to “reach audiences more directly and efficiently 
than ever before,” writes Kirk Hallahan in the Summer 1994 Public 
Relations Quarterly. “Today, with many more options available, 
PR professionals are much less dependent upon mass media for 
publicity. ... In the decade ahead, the largest American corpora- 
tions could underwrite entire, sponsored channels. Organizations 
such as Procter & Gamble might circumvent public media altogether 
and subsidize programming that combines promotional and other- 
wise conducive messages — news, talk shows, infomercials, or spon- 
sored entertainment or sports. . . . Shows such as ‘Entertainment 
Tonight' stand to become the prototype for programming of tomor- 
row, in which the source doubles as the deliverer of the message. . . . 
Channel sponsors will be able to reach coveted super-heavy users 
. . . with a highly tailored message over which they exert complete 

Ironically, Hallahan worries that the growing interpenetration of 
news and advertising is “troublesome” because it weakens the credi- 
bility of the traditional news media. “Every time that a newspaper 
produces an advertorial section that offers free puff pieces to adver- 
tisers,” he writes, “and every time that a television station presents 
an infomercial in the guise of programming . . . media organizations 
cheapen the value of their product. . . . When a news medium cov- 
ered a story in the past, the information sponsor gained more than 
mere exposure. The client, product or cause gained salience, stature 
and legitimacy.” That legitimacy will be lost, he warns, if the public 
ceases to see a difference between news and paid propaganda. 
“While PR people might circumvent the press occasionally, we aren't 
going to want to do so all the time," Hallahan writes. “We can’t kill 
the goose that laid the golden egg. A loss of public reliance upon 
and confidence in the mass media could be devastating." 4 '' 


TAkiiviq BAck 
Your Own BAck YarcJ 

The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments 
of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth 
of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a 
means of protecting corporate power against democracy. 


Taking the Risk Out of Democracy 

According to PR executive Pamela Whitney, “the key to winning 
anything is opposition research.” At a PR seminar in December 1994, 
she illustrated the point by describing her company’s undercover 
work for a corporate client who manufactures automobile antifreeze. 

Common antifreeze is made of ethylene glycol, whose sweet taste 
and smell belies its highly poisonous nature. As little as two tea- 
spoons of antifreeze can cause death or blindness, and every year 
it claims the lives of children and pets who drink it by accident. In 
Europe, antifreeze makers poison-proof their products by adding 
“bitterant” — denatonium benzoate, listed in the Guinness Book of 
World Records as the most bitter substance ever discovered. Adding 
it to antifreeze at a price of two cents per gallon will make it taste 
so vile that children almost always spit it out the instant it enters 
their mouths. 

In the United States, however, Whitney’s company — National 
Grassroots and Communications, Inc. — was hired to discredit an 
organization pushing for legislation to require bitterant in antifreeze. 
“We set up an operation where we posed as representatives of the 




estate of an older lady who had died and wanted to leave quite a 
bit of money to an organization that helped both children and ani- 
mals,” Whitney said. “We went in and met with this organization 
and said, ‘We want to bequeath a hundred thousand dollars to an 
organization; you’re one of three that we are targeting to look at. 
Give us all of your financial records. Give us all of your [tax exemp- 
tion records], give us all of your game plan for the following year, 
and the states you want to target and how you expect to win. We’ll 
get back to you.’ 

Whitney grinned as she boasted, “We got this information and 
found out she had let her [tax exempt] IRS standing lapse, which 
put her in not very good standing. Also, we found out that her money 
came from — surprise, surprise — the companies that make bitterants. 
Without leaving any fingerprints or any traces we then got word 
through the local media and killed the bill in all the states.” 2 

Whitney told this story before a crowded roomful of PR profes- 
sionals. It drew no reaction from the rest of the audience, but it 
shocked us. Although Whitney didn’t mention the name of the orga- 
nization she had spied on, we decided to see if we could track it 
down. A computer search of news articles led us to the “organiza- 
tion,” which in reality was just one woman, an Oregon housewife 
named Lynn Tylczak who said she had started her “Poison Proof 
Project” after watching a public television documentary that described 
the use of denatonium benzoate in England, where it was discov- 
ered 20 years ago. 

Tylczak laughed incredulously when we told her the story we had 
heard from Pamela Whitney. “She’s got a very foolish client,” Tyl- 
czak snorted. “Her story has got more bullshit than a cattle ranch.” 

Tylczak said she was suspicious the moment Whitney’s spy called 
claiming that he represented a Texas-based foundation called the 
“Citadel Trust.” In fact, the sting operation “was done so ineptly that 
I called both Texas and Oregon state officials. . . . After talking to 
them, I sent her trust’ a bogus gameplan/budget that hopefully con- 
vinced her client to waste lots of time and money.” 

Contrary to Whitney’s claim that her PR firm “killed the bill in all 
the states” where it was introduced, Tylczak pointed out that a law 
requiring bitterant in antifreeze was passed by the Oregon state leg- 
islature in 1991, and went into effect in May of 1995. “Aside from 
me, there hasn’t been anyone really pushing the issue, so I don’t 
know what she’s talking about when she says it was up for passage 
in other states,” Tylczak said. “My goal was to get it passed first in 

Taking Rack Your Own Backyard 


Oregon and get the kinks worked out here before taking it to other 
states, and that has happened.” 

And Tylczak took particular offense at Whitney’s claim that her 
money came from the manufacturers of bitterant. “I volunteered the 
last six years of my life hoping to prevent serious childhood poi- 
sonings," she said. “I spent $50,000 of our family savings on my 
cause; the ‘bitterant manufacturers’ she cites donated exactly S100 
worth of photocopies and stamps, total. Another interested party 
donated the legal costs of starting a tax-exempt nonprofit, but I never 
used it; never organized members, never collected dues, never 
solicited contributions, never had a paid staff. . . . Did Ms. Whitney 
know this? She should have. Her client deposed me and subpoenaed 
all of my personal and financial records almost six months before 
she gave her speech. Ironically, the only money I have ever received 
for my efforts was from the antifreeze companies in the form of a 
deposition fee and settlement. I donated all of this money to a char- 
itable organization; I have not and will not profit from the poison- 
ing of innocent children. I continue to work, unpaid, on their behalf.” 

You Say You Want a Revolution . . . 

Lynn Tylczak is only one example of the new breed of grassroots 
activists who scare the hell out of corporate America. Most commit 
to a cause after some personal experience drives them to become 
involved. Typically they act as individuals or as small groups of cit- 
izens who have come together to address a local, immediate threat 
to their lives, cities and neighborhoods. They are often treated with 
contempt by the professional environmentalists, health advocates and 
other public-interest organizations headquartered in Washington, DC. 
Many times they lack organizing expertise and money. They don’t 
have budgets or polished grant proposals needed to obtain Rinding 
from foundations and major donors. But corporations and the US 
government are spending tens of millions of dollars on PR and lobby- 
ing to fight these local community activists whom they derisively label 
“NIMBYs” — the abbreviation for “Not In My Back Yard.” 

David Steinman, whose book about pesticide contamination of 
foods became the target of the stealth PR campaign we describe in 
Chapter 1, became concerned about what was happening in to back 
yard after discovering that his own body was contaminated with 
abnormal levels of harmful chemicals. 

Our chapter about the nuclear industry originated with Judy Trei- 
chel, a woman who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and has fought for 



years to stop nuclear waste from being stored in her back yard. Vegas 
flack Don Williams, who calls his hired pro-nuke PR campaign the 
“Keep ’em Honest Coalition," refers to Treichel as a “propagandist” 
and “dedicated nuke-hater” who “has spent much of her adult life 
screeching that nuke testing should be banned because it is so ter- 
rible.” When bespoke with Judy Treichel, she didn’t screech at all. 
She simply answered our request for information with a well- 
researched packet of documents that she has spent years tirelessly 

No national environmental group is fighting the dumping of 
sewage sludge onto farmland, or exposing the risks inherent in the 
“biosolids” scam. Rural families, whose health or property has been 
damaged by toxic sludge, are heroes for spending their own time 
and money while enduring personal attacks from government and 
corporate PR flacks. Forget the EPA — they’re in bed with the sludge 
industry. The public interest is better served by citizen activists like 
Jane Beswick of Turlock, California; Jim Bynum of Laredo, Texas; 
and Linda Zander of Lynden, Washington. 

In our own back yard — Madison, Wisconsin — we’ve seen plenty 
of inspiring stories of citizen activists — human beings with normal 
flaws and foibles who have risen to accomplish extraordinary things. 
Several decades ago, a fourth-generation Wisconsin dairy farmer 
named John Kinsman was sick and getting sicker. His frustrated 
doctor suggested that perhaps his problem was toxic poisoning. Kins- 
man stopped using pesticides and switched to older and proven 
organic growing methods. His health returned, and his fann grew 
more profitable as he eliminated the cost of chemicals. He began 
questioning the ways that commercial and political interests were 
exploiting farmers. In 1985, Kinsman discovered that Monsanto and 
other companies were injecting genetically-engineered growth hor- 
mone into cows to make them produce more milk. He began pick- 
eting the University of Wisconsin to inform students that their favorite 
campus ice cream was made from hormone test milk. This small 
protest launched an international struggle which is still ongoing to 
protect the rights of farmers and consumers. 

Nor has Madison’s locally-led activism been limited to local issues. 
During the 1980s, Wisconsin's longstanding “sister state” relationship 
with Nicaragua evolved into a “municipal foreign policy” that chal- 
lenged the federal government’s war policy in Central America. Over 
100 cities around the country followed suit, starting their own sister- 
city relationships with war-tom Nicaraguan communities. Mark 

Taking Back Your Own Backyard 


Falcoff, a PR spokesman for US policy, complained that the worst 
opposition he faced came from “the loony grandmothers of the US 
who discovered Nicaragua ‘down at my church.’ ” 3 

In the 1990s, these “loony grandmothers” have proven themselves 
more persistent and certainly more helpful in their approach to 
Central American affairs than government “experts” like Falcoff. 
Cecile Meyer, for example, is a 71 -year-old retired social worker who 
invests her retirement money in a Madison-based project that offers 
development loans to low-income Nicaraguan communities. “Meyer 
said she is getting substantial returns — economic ones, ethical ones, 
even spiritual ones," states the National Catholic Reporter “Meyer is 
one of a growing number of socially conscious investors from the 
United States who are aiding reconstruction in postwar Nicaragua 
through a program called the Nicaraguan Community Development 
Loan Fund.”' 1 

These examples don't even scratch the surface of the action that 
is happening at the local level across the United States. A new citizen- 
led local movement is reclaiming democracy and directly confronting 
the PR industry’s manipulations. The most visible manifestations of 
NIMBYism, and its biggest success stories, have been in stopping 
toxic waste sites and toxin-belching incinerators from invading com- 
munities. Author Mark Dowie sees this new wave of grassroots 
democracy as the best hope for realizing the public’s well-docu- 
mented desire for a clean and healthy environment in sustainable 
balance with nature. “Today, grassroots anti-toxic environmentalism 
is a far more serious threat to polluting industries than the main- 
stream environmental movement. Not only do local activists network, 
share tactics, and successfully block many dumpsites and industrial 
developments, they also stubbornly refuse to surrender or compro- 
mise. They simply cannot afford to. Their activities and success are 
gradually changing the acronym NIMBY to NIABY — Not In Any- 
body’s Backyard.”’ 

“What if everyone became a NIMBY activist?” asks author Jane 
Morris in Not In My Backyard: The Handbook, “a guide to how your 
government works, not in theory but in practice.” Morris’ book does 
a thorough job of outlining not just the power and potential of 
NIMBYism, but its downsides and difficulties. Like Dowie, she views 
the current manifestation of NIMBY activism as a starting-place for 
the emergence of a revitalized democracy. 6 

Morris, a long-time veteran of non-profit grassroots citizens orga- 
nizing, describes how “during the course of a NIMBY campaign, your 



understanding of government will be profoundly changed and deep- 
ened. Just as dramatic will be the transformation of your view about 
how each citizen, yourselves included, can be pan of a larger change. 
. . . NIMBY activism is not an obstruction but a stimulus to finding 
lasting solutions instead of temporary and often devastating tech- 
nofixes. In NIMBY activism, people take an active role in shaping 
their futures and in running their government instead of letting it 
run them.” 

Too Much Democracy? 

The term “NIMBY” was originally coined by public relations flacks 
as a term of ridicule, but it has become a badge of honor. Dowie 
notes that: 

The idea was to discredit their motives and suggest that fighting to 
protect one’s health, family, and neighborhood was some kind of 
moral defect or, worse, a social disease. H. Lazier Hickman, Jr, exec- 
utive vice-president of Governmental Refuse Collection and Disposal 
Association, a major promoter of waste incineration, called the NIMBY 
syndrome “a public health problem of the first order. It is a recurring 
mental illness that continues to infect the public." Hickman’s solution 
was a “campaign to wipe out this disease.” Others saw in NIMBYism 
the threat of anarchy. “More titan a century ago de Tocqueville warned 
us of ma be [sic] too much democracy in America,” warned Calvin 
Brunner, a consultant to the waste industry. “Because everyone felt 
equal to everyone else, he projected that this would eventually lead 
to anarchy. ... Is it possible that the NIMBYists will play a large part 
in proving de Tocqueville right in his assertions about democracy 
being [an] untenable form of government?" 7 

This contemptuous attitude toward democracy is the heritage of 
Edward Bernays, the father-philosopher of public relations, who saw 
corporate “engineering of consent” as a way to eliminate the “chaos” 
in democratic society. Democracy is indeed chaotic, messy and 
unpredictable — and, most bothersome of all to PR practitioners, it 
often produces decisions that their clients are unable to either pre- 
dict or control. 

The difference between “engineered consent" and democracy 
parallels the distinction that Australian scholar Alex Carey draws 
between “propaganda” and “education.” He defines propaganda as 
“communications where the form and content is selected with the 
single-minded purpose of bringing some target audience to adopt 
attitudes and beliefs chosen in advance by the sponsors of the 

Taking Back Your Own Backyard 


communications." With education, by contrast, “the purpose is to 
encourage critical enquiry and to open minds to arguments for and 
against any particular conclusion, rather than close them to the pos- 
sibility of any conclusion but one .” 8 

The PR professionals who work to manage our opinions and emo- 
tions are not doing this because they are evil, but because PR is a 
financially rewarding business. From their viewpoint they are simply 
providing a service to their paying customers. If PR poses a threat 
to democratic values, it is ultimately a manifestation of the deeper 
contradiction in corporate America — the gap between our dream of 
governance “by the people, for the people” and the reality of a 
society deeply divided by unequal access to wealth and power. 

As Jerry Mander points out, even enlightened corporate execu- 
tives are limited in what they can do to implement corporate social 
responsibility: “No corporate manager could ever place community 
welfare above corporate interest. ... US corporate law holds that 
management of publicly held companies must act primarily in the 
economic interest of shareholders. If not, management can be sued 
by shareholders and firings would surely occur. So managers are 
legally obliged to ignore community welfare ... if those needs inter- 
fere with profitability .” 9 

The absolute power of the “bottom line” is understood perfectly 
well by the rather small percentage of Americans who own and man- 
age large businesses. The need to maximize profit drove antifreeze 
makers to hire a PR spy so they could fight a law that would save 
children’s lives at a price of only two cents per gallon. Failure to 
maximize profit is virtual corporate suicide. Companies that ignore 
this law soon learn their lesson when other, more profitable com- 
panies move in to seize their markets using a combination of lower 
prices and better advertising. 

The values that dominate our lives today are corporate, not demo- 
cratic values. Our system is first and foremost defined by the rules 
and regulations we follow as employees, customers, and consumers. 
Public relations firms are themselves corporations which exist to 
serve the propaganda interests of their clients. And as everyone who 
works for a corporation knows, democracy does not exist at the 
workplace. Nor is democracy working in Washington and state 
capitols where corporate special interests control the political purses 
that put candidates into office and keep them there. 

Public relations exists to manufacture the necessary illusions that 
bridge the gap between the dream and the reality of American soci- 



ety. In those illusions, however, the dream remains visible. If the PR 
industry were only based on “lies and damn lies,” it might be easier 
to see through its deceptions. But PR’s cunning half-truths and “spins" 
appeal to us and work on us because they come from us, from the 
constant plumbing of the public mind by surveys, opinion polls, 
focus groups, and infonnation gathered as we apply for bank loans, 
purchase goods with credit cards, place birth announcements in 
newspapers, vote, and make phone calls. Every day we as individ- 
uals are leaving behind the electronic equivalent of fingerprints and 
DNA samples that marketing and PR firms lift from the commercial 
landscape, and refine for use in their efforts to manipulate our minds. 

Ultimately, however, the power of PR is limited. It can often 
redirect public anger and insulate individual corporations or politi- 
cians from the consequences of their actions, but as Abraham Lin- 
coln observed, “you can't fool all of the people all of the time.” 

Fortunately, corporations are not the only institutions that shape 
our lives. Families are social enclaves organized according to very 
different rules than the rules governing corporate behavior. No sane 
person would propose, for example, that a child’s value within a 
family is based on the child’s ability to contribute to the unit’s profit- 
ability. Other alternatives to corporate dominance can be found in 
varying fonns and degrees in the structures of neighborhoods, 
churches, volunteer organizations and informal networks of friends — 
all of which constitute fertile soil for the germination and flowering 
of NIMBY movements. 

We don’t pretend to possess a magic solution to the problem that 
PR poses for our society. In truth, any such solution is likely itself 
to be part of the problem, because real democracy must be the 
common work and invention of all of us, acting together. The solu- 
tions we do possess are partial: first, learn to recognize the influence 
of PR in your life; second, seek out alternative sources of informa- 
tion; third, become personally involved in local efforts to directly 
address important issues at the community level. 

The answers, in short, will be found in fellowship with our neigh- 
bors, and in rediscover)' of ourselves. Democracy, to be real and 
continuous, must be lived daily, its values woven into the fabric of 
society. It cannot be “handed down” or planned from above. Democ- 
racy is not like fast food. It can’t be standardized, mass-produced, 
made predictable and “convenient.” 

Even reining in corporate power will not end propaganda and 
public manipulation; nothing would. Political leaders and vested 

Taking Back Your Own Backyard 


interests will always use the most successful techniques available to 
manipulate human opinion, behavior and public policy in their 
favor. “Constant vigilance” remains the best watchword for protect- 
ing and advancing democracy, and for exposing and avoiding PR 

Wait a Minute — Maybe We’ve Been Unfair 

As you might expect, the PR industry is constantly vigilant about its 
own image, and the news that we were writing Toxic Shtclge Is Good 
For You created some stir in the PR trade press. The June 19, 1995, 
issue of PR News reported that Ron Levy, president of the North 
American Precis Syndicate, questioned whether the intention behind 
our “critical book on PR is to sell copies of the book, rather than to 
present a balanced view of the public relations profession.” Levy 
wrote that there is a “conflict of interest” between our “moral oblig- 
ation to tell tlie truth” and our “interest in writing so the book will 
sell well.” To judge wiiether we have honored this moral obligation, 
Levy suggested that readers see whether the book “(a) says only nasty 
things about die great PR firms, or (b) presents both sides, includ- 
ing how much good the great PR firms are doing ... to save lives, 
avoid blindness and other health tragedies, and help people get more 
happiness out of life." 10 

Actually, we know this book doesn’t tell the “whole story” about 
public reladons. Many PR practitioners are engaged in promotional 
and publicity campaigns for clinics, schools and deserving charities 
that benefit the public. The techniques of public relations are not all 
inherently bad. Everyone at some time uses their skills of persua- 
sion to communicate ideas, sell products, promote a point of view, 
or “schmooze” socially. But positive uses of PR do not in any way 
mitigate the undemocradc power of the multi-billion dollar PR indus- 
try to manipulate and propagandize on behalf of wealthy special 
interests, dominating debate, discussion and decision-making. Nor 
is it our “moral responsibility” as authors to help the public relations 
industry clean up its own image, which was thoroughly dirty long 
before we ever set print to paper. The PR industry is equipped like 
no other industry on earth to publicize its own good works, and if 
the public image of PR is negative, it can only be because the indus- 
try has failed to honor its own advice, as stated by Ivy Lee: “Set your 
house in order, then tell the public you have done so.” 

Citizens and individual PR practitioners can use ethical public rela- 
tions techniques to right social wrongs, clean up the environment, 



promote minority rights, protect working people and make their 
communities better. But we consider it an illusion to imagine that 
PR is a “neutral" technology that can simply be adopted uncritically 
to achieve socially responsible ends. 

There is a danger in this conceit. All the environmental organi- 
zations together will never have a budget for public relations equal 
to that of even a single major manufacturer of pesticides. The pol- 
luter will always be able to outspend and outgun the environmen- 
talists, and can bring virtually an unlimited amount of propaganda 
and lobbypower to an issue, simply by writing a larger check or 
reaching out to other businesses similarly threatened by reform. 

Another danger is that PR campaigns do not invite individuals to 
become actors on their own behalf, but treat them as a targeted, pas- 
sive audience. A democratic movement in the best American tradi- 
tion must emerge from the initiatives of individual citizens acting as 
true participants in the process, not as the products of a top-down 
PR campaign. 

Is it possible for such a democratic movement to emerge? Was it 
ever possible in the past? The very existence of the PR industry 
proves that it is possible. The fact that corporations and governments 
feel compelled to spend billions of dollars every year manipulating 
the public is a perverse tribute to human nature and our own 
moral values. 

The public relations industry has stolen our dreams, and returned 
them to us packaged as illusions. It must be our duty to dream more 
deeply, and to participate in the process of transforming those dreams 
into reality. 

This hook is a project of the Center for Media & Democracy, a 
public interest organization dedicated to investigative reporting 
on the PR industry. The Center serves citizens, journalists and 
researchers. It is funded by other nonprofit groups and individ- 
uals, and accepts no government or corporate grants. 

For a sample of the Center’s quarterly newsmagazine, send 
$ 1 to: PR Watch, 3318 Gregory Sttvet, Madison, W1 53711-1 725. 
Phone: (608) 233-3346; e-mail: 74250. 


PR hdusTRy LeacJers 

In 1995 the world’s largest public relations firm was Burson- 
Marsteller, followed by Shandwick and Hill & Knowlton. The fal- 
lowing information, gleaned from O’Dwyer publications, gives a brief 
profile of Burson-Marsteller (B-M) and an idea of its scope: 

In 1994, Burson-Marsteller netted just under $192 million dollars 
of income from its 63 offices in 32 countries. Like most transnational 
firms it has been “downsizing” its personnel, now at 1,700 employ- 
ees worldwide. The B-M empire has offices in Argentina, Australia, 
Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Denmark, England, 
France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, 
Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Peoples Republic of China, 
Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Sweden, 
Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, and Venezuela. 

Burson-Marsteller purchased the Washington-based public 
affairs/lobby firms of Gold and Liebengood in 1989 and Black, Man- 
afort, Stone & Kelly in 1991- B-M in turn is part of the privately held 
Young & Rubicam advertising conglomerate, which also owns Cohn 
& Wolfe and CMF&Z, two other major PR firms. In 1993, Young & 
Rubicam reported billings of more than $7.5 billion dollars. 

Burson-Marsteller refuses to release a complete list of current and 
recent clients, but they are known to include major corporations, 
business associations, government agencies, right-wing political 
movements and wealthy individuals, such as the Government of El 
Salvador, NBC, Philip Morris, the Trump Organization, Jonah Sav- 
imbi’s UNITA, Occidental Petroleum, Kashmiri American Council, 
American Airlines, State of Alaska, Genentech, Ford Motor Company, 
The Times Mirror Company, MCI, National Restaurant Association, 
Coca-Cola, Government of Italy, British Columbia’s timber industry, 




Dow Coming, General Electric, Hydro-Quebec, NutraSweet, Govern- 
ment of the Bahamas, AT&T, British Telecom, Chevron, DuPont, IBM, 
Warner-Lambert, Visa, U.S. Postal Service, Seagram, SmithKline 
Beecham, Reebok, Procter & Gamble, the Olympic Games, Nestle, 
National Livestock, Motorola, Gerber, Eli Lilly, Caterpillar, American 
Energy Alliance, State Farm Insurance, Sears, Pfizer, NEC, Metro- 
politan Life, McDonnell Douglas, Government of Kenya, Government 
of Indonesia, Glaxo, Campbell Soup, Monsanto, Government of 
Saudi Arabia, Government of Korea, Bombardier/Sea-Doo, Govern- 
ment of Togo, Government of Nigeria, Beretta USA, Hitachi and 
many hundreds more. 

Burson-Marsteller says its international operations are "linked 
together electronically and philosophically to deliver a single stan- 
dard of excellence.” It claims that “the role of communications is to 
manage perceptions which motivate behaviors that create business 
results. We are totally focused on this idea as our mission. . . . 
[B-M] helps clients manage issues by influencing — in the right com- 
bination — public attitudes, public perceptions, public behavior and 
public policy." 

The Top 15 Public Relations Firms in 1994 

(Italics Indicates Advertising Agency Ownership) 

Net Fees 

FIRM Millions 

1. Burson-Marsteller (Young & Ruhicam) $191.99 

2. Shandwick 160.10 

3. Hill & Knowlton (WPP Group) 139 30 

4. Communications Intemational-Porter/Novelli 

(Omnicom Gtvup) 111.72 

5. Edelman PR Worldwide 74.90 

6. Fleishman-Hillard 73.89 

7. Ketchum PR (Omnicom Group) 55-40 

8. Ogilvy, Adams & Rinehart (WPP Group) 39.05 

9. Robinson Lake/Sawyer Miller (Bozell Worldwide) 37.80 

10. The Rowland Company (Saatchi &Saatchi) 35.00 

11. Manning, Selvage & Lee (DArcy Masius) 31-60 

12. GCI Group (Grey Advertising) 31.54 

13- Ruder Finn 27.82 

14. Financial Relations Board 15.87 

15. Cohn & Wolf (Young & Ru bicam) 14.67 

TOTAL NET FEE INCOME $1.04 billion 

Information compiled from O'Dwyer's Directory of PR Firms 1995 


The CIorox PR Cmsis PIan 

Today, almost every company has in place a “Public Relations 
Crisis Management Plan” to anticipate and mitigate profit-threaten- 
ing problems, and the CIorox Company is no exception. Chlorine, 
the active ingredient in its bleach, has been linked to a variety of 
health problems, including infertility, impaired childhood develop- 
ment, immune system damage, and cancer. Chlorine is also the basis 
of many persistent compounds including dioxin, Agent Orange her- 
bicides, PCBs, and climate-destroying CFCs. 

In 1991, in the face of a mounting campaign by Greenpeace for 
a “global phase-out" of chlorine, the CIorox Company turned to 
Ketchum Public Relations, a premier greenwashing firm. Ketchum’s 
draft plan outlined strategies for dealing with a number of “worst- 
case scenarios,” but failed to plan for the worst of all possible sce- 
narios — the possibility that some conscientious objector would leak 
the plan to Greenpeace, which in turn provided it to us. 

Below are edited excerpts from Ketchum’s proposal to help CIorox 
“present a position that doesn't appear to be self-serving — sometimes 
using a disarming candor, other times presenting an understandable 
firmness." As corporations gear up for what one leading public rela- 
tions advisor predicts will be a “wicked battle” over the chlorine con- 
troversy, the following text reveals the rigorous scripting behind their 
"disarming candor." 

1991 Draft Prepared by Ketchum Public Relations 

. . . The environmental crises which could affect the CIorox Company can 
be planned for; strategies to address scenarios flowing from known issues 
of concern to the public can be established. . . . We have attempted to 




provide a ‘crystal ball’ pinpointing some of the issues which could arise over 
the next year. For each scenario we have suggested different levels of atten- 
tion and response. . . . 


. . . Greenpeace activists arrive at Clorox corporate headquarters with signs, 
banners, bull horns and several local television crews and proceed to launch 
a rally. The demonstrators hang a large banner... They release the results of 
a new “study" linking chlorine exposure to cancer. Two local network affil- 
iates pick up the piece and go live to their noon news with a remote broad- 
cast. AP Radio and the San Francisco Chronicle are on the scene and 
interview three unsuspecting Clorox employees, on their way to lunch, who 
agree that the safety of chlorine may be in question. . . . 

Objective: Make sure this is a one-day media event, with no follow-up sto- 
ries, that results in minimal short-term damage to Clorox’s reputation or mar- 
ket position. 


• Announce that the company will seek an independent, third-party review 
of the Greenpeace study and promise to report back to the media. . . . 
(Its primary value will be to cause reporters to question Greenpeace’s 
integrity and scientific capabilities.) 

• Reporters are invited into the company, without Greenpeace, for a news 
conference. . . . 

• Team begins alerting key influentials, scientists, government environ- 
mental and health officials, and others previously identified as potential 

• Names of independent scientists who will talk about chlorine are given 
to the media. (These lists are assumed to already be on file as per Mas- 
ter Crisis Plan.) 

• Regarding the employees who raised concerns . . . employee communi- 
cations efforts will be improved. 

• Survey research firm begins random telephone survey of 500 consumers 
to assess the impact of the event. Based on the results, available the next 
morning at 9, team will decide further steps. . . . 


The movement back to more 'natural' household cleaning products is gain- 
ing momentum as consumers are eagerly looking for ways they can con- 
tribute to a cleaner planet. ... A prominent newspaper columnist targets 
the environmental hazards of liquid chlorine bleach in an article, which is 
syndicated to newspapers across the country. The columnist calls for con- 
sumers to boycott Clorox products. Local chapters of Greenpeace take up 
the cause. ... A dramatic drop in sales of Clorox products within several 
weeks. . . . Congress schedules hearings on the environmental safety of liq- 
uid chlorine bleach products. . . . 

Appendix B: The Clorox Crisis Plan 


This event is every company's worst nightmare: the company must be 
prepared to take aggressive, swift action to protect its market franchise. . . . 
The very future of the product and the company is at stake. 

Objective: Restore Clorox's reputation and that of the product as quickly 
as possible. 

Strategy: Use, wherever possible, actual rank and file employees and their 
families to act as spokespeople to support the company. . . . 

• An independent scientist is dispatched to meet with the columnist and 
discuss the issue. 

• Teams of scientists, independent or from Clorox or both, are dispatched 
... to conduct media tours. 

• Arrange for sympathetic media, local, state and national governmental 
leaders, and consumer experts to make statements in defense of the 
product. . . . 

• Advertising in major markets, using Clorox employees and their families 
who will testify to their faith in the product. . . . 

• Advertising campaign: “Stop Environmental Terrorism,” calling on Green- 
peace and the columnist to be more responsible and less irrational. . . . 

• Video and audio news release to affected markets. 

• Enlist the support of the union and the national union leadership, since 
jobs are at stake. 

• Determine if and how a slander lawsuit against the columnist and/or 
Greenpeace could be effective. 

• Mass mailings to consumers in affected cities. 

• If the situation truly grows desperate, the team agrees to consider the 
possibility of pulling the product off the market, pending a special review, 
assuming the review can be done quickly. 

• Survey research is conducted daily to measure public reaction, changing 
attitudes, perceptions, etc. 

Moderate Case Event: A nationally syndicated columnist attacks the house- 
hold use of Clorox bleach as a hazard to the environment and calls for con- 
sumers to use ‘safer’ non-chlorine substitutes. . . . The article is picked up in 
newspapers in 25 major cities across the U.S., but otherwise generates no 
news. . . . Although consumers are asking questions, there is no loss of sales. 
Objective: Prevent issue from escalating and gaining more credibility. 
Strategy: Keep media interest minimal; prevent national or state govern- 
ment action. 

Action Plan: 

• Employee announcement is posted. . . . 

• Media strategy: Reactive/responsive as long as the interest remains light. 

• The columnist is briefed on the environmental safety of liquid chlorine 

• Media tours developed, but they rely more on a "Hints from Heloise” 
approach that only obliquely mentions that chlorine bleaches are useful 
and safe. 




At least one scientist advisor to the chlorine industry has voiced concern that 
the National Toxicology Program analysts could conclude that chlorine may 
possibly be an animal carcinogen. In light of U.S. regulatory policy, a link 
with cancer could trigger public concern and harsh regulatory action against 
this important chemical. 

Worst Case Event: The final NTP study analysis concludes that chlorine is, 
indeed, an animal carcinogen. On the same day of the NTP study announce- 
ment, Greenpeace holds a satellite news conference in Washington, New 
York and San Francisco to launch a concerted campaign to eliminate all use 
of chlorine in the United States. The news conference receives widespread 
national media coverage. A number of television reporters use a Clorox bot- 
tle to illustrate “dangerous” products produced with chlorine. The Environ- 
mental Protection Agency decides to reevaluate and severely tighten its 
regulations on the use of chlorine in manufacturing, causing . . . negative 
media coverage. 

Objective: Working with other manufacturers and the Chlorine Institute, (1) 
forestall any legislative or regulatory action: and, (2) Maintain-customer and 
consumer loyalty. 

Strategy: Demonstrate company’s awareness that people are legitimately 
frightened and have questions that need answers, its commitment to getting 
those questions answered as quickly as possible, and its belief that chlorine 
does not pose a health hazard to people. . . . Where possible, ignore Green- 
peace and don’t give it credence. . . . Help people understand that Green- 
peace is not among the serious players in this issue. . . . 

• Through the Chlorine Institute, third-party scientific experts are brought 
to Washington to testify. . . . 

• Because of advance planning, written material for reporters, customers, 
consumers and employees is in place with the specific target audiences 
dearly defined. 

• Media briefing with key environmental and consumer reporters and with 
other interested media are held by industry, company, and independent 

• Third-spokespeople are scheduled for major television and newspaper 

• Industry generates grassroots letters to legislators calling on them to show 
restraint. Letters tare) designed to show that Greenpeace’s overreaction is 
not causing widespread consumer concern. 

• Through the Chlorine Institute, continue . . . consumer surveys to deter- 
mine consumer attitudes and concerns and to develop clear, convincing 

• A hotline is established for consumers to call if they have questions. 


SuqqESTEd REAdiiyq 

Much of the information that we present in this book appeared origi- 
nally in a newsmagazine titled PR Watch that we edit for the Center for Media 
& Democracy, a nonprofit organization that monitors the PR industry. (A 
Brief box describing the Center appears at the end of page 206.) PR Watch 
is published quarterly and is the only publication in the United States devoted 
to revealing and analyzing PR propaganda and its impact on our lives. For 
a sample copy, send $1 to PR Watch at 3318 Gregory Street, Madison, WI 
53711; phone (608) 233-3346. 

Fairness <& Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) is a national media watchdog 
group that focuses awareness on the narrow corporate allegiance of 
the media and its under-representation of points of view from women, 
minorities and low-income groups. It publishes a magazine, titled EXTRA! 
For information, contact FAIR, 130 W. 25th Street, New York, NY 10001; 
(212) 633-6700. 

There are a number of professional and trade publications that report on 
the PR industry — Inside PR, pr reporter, PRNetvs, Public Relations Quarterly, 
PR Tactics — that are available for fairly steep subscription rates. The infor- 
mation in such publications is written to be helpful to the PR industry. One 
trade publishing firm — the Jack O’Dwyer Company of New York — stands 
above the rest because of the high degree of digging and reporting done 
on the industry'. 

Recently O’Dwyer had lunch with the CEO of a top-ten PR firm, who 
began their friendly get-together by asking, "Jack, why does everyone hate 
you so much?” The answer, we believe, is that while O’DWyer’s publica- 
tions provide useful information to the PR industry, O’Dwyer and his staff 
are feisty journalists who have not been afraid to step on toes, dig out scan- 
dals and criticize the industiy. 

If you need to track the PR industry on a regular basis, we recom- 
mend subscribing to one or more of the O’Dwyer publications. They 
include O' Dwyer's PR Services (monthly), Jack O Thayer's Newsletter (weekly), 
O’Dwyer’s Washington Report (bi-weekly), and the annual O 'Dwyer's 




Directory of Public Relations Firms. For subscription information, contact Jack 
O’Dwyer, 271 Madison Ave., NY NY 10016; phone (212) 679-2471. 

Do you need to know which PR firm or lobbyist is representing whom 
in Washington, or whether the Coalition for Health Insurance Choices is an 
insurance industry front group? Then you should probably get the best 
annual directory to the action inside the Beltway: Washington Representa- 
tives: Who Does What for Whom in the Nation’s Capital, Columbia Books, 
Inc., 1212 New York Avenue, Washington, DC 20005; phone (202) 898-0662. 

Another useful resource, published in 1995 by the nonprofit Advocacy 
Institute, is titled By Hook or By Crook: A Guide to Stealth Lobbying Tactics 
and Counter-Strategies. Their address is: 1707 L Street NW, Suite 400, Wash- 
ington, DC 20036; phone (202) 659-8475. 

To understand how the PR mind works, and what sort of tactics and 
strategies are the tools of the trade, we recommend a simple, short text- 
book, written for PR students, titled Marketing Public Relations: The Hows 
That Make It Work, by Rene A. Henry, Jr. (1995: Iowa State University Press). 

Michael Levine is a right-wing Hollywood publicist whose clients include 
Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston. While we don't recommend his phi- 
losophy, we do recommend his book, Guerrilla PR <, 1993: HarperCollins, 
NY), as a useful how-to guide for citizens looking for inexpensive, creative 
ways to publicize and promote their own causes. 

Other Recommended Reading 

Censored: The News Tlrat Didn ’t Make the News — and Why: The 1995 Project 
Censored Yearbook, by Carl Jensen and Project Censored, 1995, Four 
Walls Eight Windows, NY. 

Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, by Edward 
Herman and Noam Chomsky, 1988, Pantheon Books, NY. 

Not In My Backyard: Tire Handbook, by Jane Anne Morris. 1994, Silvercat 
Publications, San Diego, CA. 

The Powerhouse: Robert Keith Gray and the Selling of Access and Influence 
In Washington, by Susan Trento, 1992, St. Martin's Press, NY. 

PR: How the Public Relations Industry Writes the News, by Jeff & Marie 
Blyskal, 1985, William Morrow and Company, NY. 

Sultans of Sleaze: Public Relations and the Media, by Joyce Nelson, 1989, 
Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME. 

Taking the Risk Out of Democracy: Propaganda In the US and Australia, 
by Alex Carey, 1995, University of New South Wales Press Ltd, Sydney. 
Through the Media Looking Glass: Decoding Bias and Blather in the News, 
by Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon, 1995. Common Courage Press, Mon- 
roe, ME. 

Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias In News Media, by Martin A. 

Lee and Norman Solomon, 1991, Carol Publishing Group, NY. 

Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy, by William 
Greicler, 1992, Simon & Schuster, NY. 


Chapter One: Burning Books 

Before They’re Printed 

1 Ketch ti in Public Relations Confidential 
Memo to CALRAB Food Safety Team, Sept. 
7, 1990. 

2. O ’Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations 
Executives 1995, p. 178. 

3- David P. Bianco, ed., PR News Caselxrok. 
1000 Public Relations Case Studies 
(Potomac, MD: Phillips Publishing, 1993), 

pp. 120-121. 

4. David Steinman, Diet for a Poisoned 
Planet: How to Choose Safe Foods for You 
and Your Family (New York: Harmony 
Books, 1990). 

5 O'Dwyvrs Directory of Public Relations 
Firms 1994 , pp. 96^97. 

6. O’Duyer’s PR Services Report, Vol. 8 No. 2. 
Feb. i994. p. 42. 

7. O' Dwyers Directory » of Public Relations 
Executives 1995, p. 178. 

8. Ketchum Public Relations Confidential 
Memo to CALRAB Food Safety learn, Sept. 
7, 1990. 

9. Jean Rainey, Memo for Roland Woerner 
Regarding David Steinman Booking on 
Today Show, (no date) 

10. Elizalieth M. Whelan, American Council on 
Science and Health, to John Sununu, Chief 
of Staff, White House, July 12, 1990. 

1 1 . Daniel P. Puzo, “The New Naturalism: 
Controversy Eats at Diet for a Poisoned 
Planet ,” las Angeles Times. Nov. 29. 1990, 
p. 27. 

12. Kenneth N. Hall et al., U.S. Dept, of Agri- 
culture, to Food Safety Contacts, Oct. 29. 

13. Ken Miller. “Meltdown in EPA Watchdog 
Office Puts Millions at Risk, Workers Say," 
Gannett News Service, May 4. 1995. See 
also "EPA Reinstatement. Compensatory 
Damages Awarded Toxicologist Removed 
by EPA," BN A Chemical Regulation Daily, 
Dec. 11, 1992. 

14. O' Dwyer's Directory' of Public Relations 
Firms 1994, pp. 124-125. 

15. Carol Ward Knox. Morgan & Myers, to 
dairy industry representatives. Sept. 17, 

16. John F. Berry. “Suit Says Du Pont Co. Pres- 
sured Publishers; Author Alleges His His- 
tory' of Family Was Financially Doomed," 
Washington Post. Sept. 22, 1981, p. A2. 

17. Interview with Dan Barry’. 

18. David Helvarg. The War Against the 
Greens (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 
1994), pp. 365-366. 

19. Susan B. Trento, The Power House: Robert 
Keith Gray and the Selling of Access and 
Influence in Washington (New York: 
St. Martin’s Press, 1992). p. 233. 

20. Ibid., p. 196. 

21. Ibid., p. 62. 

22. James Flynn, Paul Slovic and C.K. Mertz, 
“The Nevada Initiative: A Risk Communi- 
cation Fiasco" (unpublished manuscript), 
May 6, 1993. pp. 6-8. 

23. Peoples Bicentennial Commission, Voices 
of the American Revolution (New York: 
Bantam Books, 1974). pp. 114-116. 

Chapter Two: The Art of the Hustle 

and the Science of Propaganda 

1. Edward L. Bemays, Public Relations { Nor- 
man, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 
1957). pp. 38-39. 

2. Ibid., p. 36. 

3 Ibid., p. 60. 

4. Scott Cutlip. The Unseen Pouer. Public 
Relations: A History (Hillsdale, NJ: 
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1994), 
p. 51. For a description of press agentry in 
the early twentieth century, see Neal 
Gabler, Wtnchell: Power and the Culture 
of Celebrity, excerpted in O Diner’s PR Ser- 
vices Report, Dec. 1994. pp. 24-25. 

5. Will Irwin. “Press Agent, His Rise and Fall,” 
Colliers Vol. 48. Dec. 2. 1991. Quoted in 
Cutlip, p. 51. 




6. Bemays, p. 51. 

7. Ibid., pp. 53-55, 63-64. 

8. Cutlip, p. 21. 

9. Ibid., pp. 47-48. 

10. Ibid., p. 58. 

11. Ibid., pp. 52-53. 

12. Sherman Morse, “An Awakening on Wall 
Street," The American Magazine, Vol. LXII, 
Sept. 1906. 

13- Cutlip. p. 64. 

14. Ibid., p. 23. 

15. Quoted in Bemays, p. 74. 

16. Cutlip, pp. 64-71. 

17. Ibid., pp. 121-122. 

18. Ibid., p. 144. 

19. Ibid., p. 160. 

20. Edward L. Bemays, Projxigatula (New 
York: 1928). pp. 47-48. 

21. Edward L. Bemays, ed.. The Engineering 
of Consent (Norman. OK: University of 
Oklahoma Press), pp. 3-4. 

22. Cutlip. pp. 193-214. 

23. John T. Flynn, “Edward L. Bemays, The 
Science of Ballyhoo," Atlantic Monthly, 
May 1932. 

24. Cutlip. pp. 170-176. 

25. Bemays, Public Relations, p. 4. 

26. Edward L Bemays, “What Do the Social 
Sciences Have to Offer Public Relations?" 
interview' w-ith Howard Penn Hudson for 
PR: The Quarterly Journal of Public Rela- 
tions, Winter 1956. Reprinted in Edward L. 
Bemays, The Utter Years: Public Relations 
Insights, 7956-/956 (Rhinebeck, NY: H&M 
Publishers, 1986), p. 11. 

27. Bemays, Pro/taganda, p. 9. 

28. Cutlip, p. 185. 

29. Edward L. Bemays, Tlje Biography of an 
Idea: Memoirs of Public Relations Counsel 
Edward L. Bemays ( New York: Simon and 
S< busier, 1965), p 

Chapter Three: Smokers’ Hacks 

1. Richard W. Pollay, “Propaganda, Puffing 
and the Public Interest," Public Relations 
Revietv, Vol. XVI, No. 3, Fall 1990. p.40. 

2. Ibid., p. 41. 

3. Ibid., p. 40. 

4. Stuart Ew'en, Captains of Consciousness 
Advertising and the Social Roots of Con- 
sumer Culture (New' York: McGraw-Hill, 
1976), p. 160. 

5. Pollay, p. 41. 

6. Ibid., p. 42. 

7. Ibid., p. 50. 

8. Scott M. Cutlip. "The Tobacco Wars: 
A Matter of Public Relations Ethics," Jour- 
nal of CorjKjratc Public Relations, Vol. 3, 
1992-1993. p. 26-31. 

9- Mike Moore, Attorney General, State of 
Mississippi in lawsuit filed on Mav 23, 

10. Cutlip, “The Tobacco Wars,” p. 28. 

11. Cutlip. 7 he Unseen Potter, p. 488. 

12. Pollay, p. 45-49. 

13- Cutlip. The Unseen Pouer, p. SOI. 

14. Ibid., p. 497. 

15. Michael Evans Begay et al., “The Tobacco 
Industry, State Politics, and Tobacco Edu- 
cation in California," American Journal of 
Public Health, Vol. 83. No. 9, Sept. 1993. 
p. 1214. 

16. Carolyn Henson, “World Health Organiza- 
tions No Tobacco Day," Associated Press, 
May 30. 1994. See also Robert Evans. 
“Third World, Women Boost Smoking 
Death Forecasts. Reuters wire service, 
May 30, 1994. 

17. Peter H. Stone, “It's All Done With Some 
Smoke and Some PR,". National Journal. 
May 28, 1994, pp. 1244-1245. 

18. “Anti-America." The National Smokers 
Alliance Voice, Vol. 2, Issue 4, June/July 

19. John Schwartz, "California Activists’ Suc- 
cess Ignites a Not-So-Slow Burn," Wash- 
ington Post, May 29, 1994. 

20. "State Official Challenges Tobacco Firm; 
California Initiative Said to Be Deceptive," 
The Washington Post wire service, June 2. 

21. B. Drummond Ayres, Jr., “Philip Morris on 
Offensive in California," New York Times, 
May 16, 1994, p. 1. 

22. Gaylord Walker, “Smoke Hits the Fan — 
American Cancer Society Thrilled," PR 
Newswire, Nov. 9, 1994. 

23 Advertising Age/Gallup poll, quoted in 
“Tobacco Industry’s Own Health is the Lat- 
est Victim of Marketing Practices," Inside 
PR, April 1994, p. 6. 

24. “Tobacco Institute Relies on PR to Help 
Smoke Out P.C. Police," O'Dwyer's W’ash- 
ington Refx)rt, Vol. IV, No. 12, June 6, 
1994, pp. 1, 7. 

25. Bemays, The Utter Years, p 115. 

26. “3 of 4 Flacks Agree: No Ifs About Butts," 
PR Watch, Vol. 1, No. 4, Third Quarter, 
1994, p. 2. 

27. Bernays, The Utter Years, p. 139. 

Notes, pages 19-53 


Chapter Four: Spinning the Atom 

1. Cutlip, The Unseen Poiver, pp. 508-511. 

2. Ibid. 

3- Peter Stoler. Decline and Fail: The Ailing 
Nuclear Pouvr Industry ( New York: Dodd. 
Mead & Company. 1985), pp. 27-28. 

4. Daniel Ford, The Cult of the Atom. 7 he 
Secret Papers of the Atomic Energy Com- 
mission (New York: Tnuchstone/Simon 
and Schuster, 1982, 1984). p. 40-41. 

5. Stoler. p. 28. 

6. David E. Lilienthal, Change, Hope, and the 
Bomb (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University 
Press, 1963), pp. 97-100. 

7. Stoler. p. 16. 

8. Ibid., p. 37. 

9. Lilienthal, pp. 111-112. 

10. Stoler. pp. 41-45. See also Peter Pringle 
and James Spigelman, 7 he Nuclear Barons 
(New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston. 
1981), pp. 263-272. 

11. Stoler. pp. 52-56. 

12. Harvey Wasserman, Energy Wan Reports 
from the Front (Westport, CT: Lawrence 
Hill & Co., 1979), pp. 5-6. 

13 Stoler, pp. 97-98. 

14 Wasserman, p. 6. See also Stoleif p. 99. 

15 Stoler. pp. 102-103. 

16. Ibid., pp. 39-40. 

17. Sheila Harty, Hucksters in the Classroom 
(Washington, DC: Center for Study of 
Responsive Law. 1979), p. 40. 

18. Ibid., pp. 42, 44. 

19. Rolx.*rt L. Dilenschneider, Pouter and Influ- 
ence Mastering the Art of Persuasion (New 
York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990), p. 165. 

20. David M. Rubin, "The Public’s Right to 
Know,” in Accident at Three Mile Island: 
The Human Dimensions, edited by David 
L. Sills, C.P. Wolf and Viven B. Shelanski 
(Boulder. CO: Westview Press, 1982). 
P 133. 

21. Stoler, pp. 110-113. 

22. Dilenschneider, pp. 167-68. 

23. Fred Wilcox, ed., Grassroots An Anti-Nuke 
Source Book (Trumansburg, NY: The 
Crossing Press, 1980), p. 118. 

24. Stoler, p. 2. 

25. Flynn et al., "The Nevada Initiative," p. 2. 

26. Kent Oram and Ed Allison, The Nevada 
Initiative: The Long-term Program: An 
Overview," unpublished proposal to the 
American Nuclear Energy Council, Wash- 
ington, DC, Sept. 1991, pp. 8-9, 12-14, 17. 

27. Flynn et al., p 3. 

28. Allen J. Keesler, letter, Oct. 25, 1991. 

29. Flynn et al.. pp. 4-5. 

30. Ibid., pp. 6-7. 

31. Ibid., p. 8. 

32. Ibid., p. 2. 

33- “The Public Relations Behind Nuclear 
Waste." Nuhem Market Report, March 1995, 
pp. 4-5. 

34. Facts on File World News Digest, Feb. 5, 
1988, p. 71G2. 

35. “The Public Relations Behind Nuclear 
Waste," pp. 6-7, 9-10. 

Chapter Five: Spies for Hire 

1 . Interview with Jennifer Lyman. 

2. Interview with Dan Barry. 

3- Diane Alters, “The Business of Surveil- 
lance." Boston Globe, July 9, 1989, p. 27. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Joseph Demma, Michael Slackman and 
Robert E. Kessler, “High Stakes in Covert 
War: Spies Used by Animal Rights Foes," 
Netvsday, Feb. 5, 1989, p. 7. 

6. Seymour D. Vestermark. Jr., ed.. Indicators 
of Social Vulnerability: Social Indicators in 
Civil Defense Planning and Evaluation 
(McLean, VA: Human Sciences Research, 
Inc.. 1968). pp. iii, xviii. 

7. New York limes, March 27. 1976, p. 3. 
col. 1. 

8. Seymour D. Vestermark, Jr. and Peter D. 
Blauvelt. Controlling Crime in the School: 
A Complete Security Handbook for Admin- 
istrators (West Nyack, NY: Parker Pub- 
lishing Co., 1978), p. 10, 45, 159, 189, 218, 
257, 277. 

9. Trento, pp. 93-113- 

10. Quoted in Mormon Spies, Hughes and the 
CIA by Jerald and Sandra Tanner (Salt Lake 
City, UT: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1976), 
p. 13. 

11. J. Anthony Lukas, New York Times Maga- 
zine, Jan. 4, 1976. 

12. Tanner, pp. 17, 19, 29. 

13. Ibid., pp. 30, 36. 

14. "Pagan International: Formed by Public 
Affairs Strategists Who Resolved Nestld 
Boycott," Business Wire, May 10, 1985. 

15. Paula M. Block, Hazel Bradford and Laura 
Pilarski, “Forging a Public Affairs Appara- 
tus for Business," Chemical Week, lune 19, 
1985, p. 42. 

16. Alters, p. 27. 

17. "Pagan International," Business Wire, May 
10, 1985. 

18. "Ex-Nestle Firm Goes Bankrupt," 
O'Dwyer's PR Services, Nov. 1990, p. 1. 



19 Samantha Sparks, “South Africa: US Clergy 
Group Linked to Shell Oil,” Inter Press Ser- 
vice, Oct. 7, 1987. 

20. "Ex-Nestle Firm Goes Bankrupt," p. 1. 

21. Jack O'Dwyer, “Study Shows High Cost of 
Info-gathering," Jack O'Dtvyer's Newsletter, 
Aug. 16. 1989. p. 7. 

22. “MBD: A Brief Description." internal doc- 
ument, undated 

23. Dilenschneider, p. 96. 

24. “MBD: Core Issues Monitored By MBD," 
internal document, undated. 

25. “MBD: A Brief Description." internal doc- 
ument, undated. 

26. Interview with Jim Goodman. 

27. Interview with Dr. Michael Hansen, Con- 
sumers Union. 

28. Ibid. 

29. Interview with Dr. Richard Burroughs. 

30. Interview with Dr. Michael Hansen. 

31. Interview with John Kinsman. 

32. John Dillon, “Poisoning the Grassroots," 
Covert Action, No. 44, Spring, 1993. 
pp. 35-36. 

33- Ibid. 

34. Ibid. 

35. Ibid. 

36. Interview with John Dillon. 

37. John Brady. Direct Impact, to John Seng. 
Kaufman PR, Jan. 12, 1990. 

38. Bill Lambrecht, "Firms Going All Out In 
Milk Fight." St. Louis Post Dispatch, April 
7, 1991, p. 1. See also Carol Matlack, 
“Barnyard Brawl Over Cow Hormone.” 
National Journal, April 6, 1991. 

39. Demma et al.. “High Stakes in Covert War." 

40. Interview with Heidi Prescott. May 20, 

41. Lisa McGurrin Driscoll, “A Corporate Spy 
Story.” Neu> England Business. Vol. 11, No. 
5, May 1989. p. 28. 

42. Denise Lavoie, "Crazy' Invention Grows 
Into Giant Firm," Chicago Tribune, 
Nov. 22, 1992, Business section, p. 10. 

43. Carole Bass, “Animal Activists. Target of 
Covert Campaign?" Connecticut Law Tri- 
bune, Dec. 9, 1991, p. 1. 

44. Driscoll. 

45. Joseph Demma, Robert E. Kessler and 
Michael Slackman, “Bomb Suspect: ‘I Was 
Set Up.' " Newsday, January 27, 1989. p. 3. 

46. Driscoll. 

47. Ibid. 

48. Bass. 

49- “Witness Given Money, Cars to Befriend 
Activist," UP1 wire story, Feb. 22, 1989. 

50. Bass. 

51. Driscoll. 

52. Bass. 

53- Dan Mangan. “Tax Leins Filed Against 
Controversial Stratford Private Security 
Firm," Vol. 31, No. 25. June 15, 1992, p. 7. 

54. Carole Bass, "Substitute School Teacher's 
Double Life as an Informant," Connecticut 
Law Tribune, Dec. 9, 1991, p. 14. 

55. Celestine Bohlen, “Animal-Rights Case: 
Terror or Entrapment?" New York Times, 
March 3, 1989, section B, p. 1. Also see 
Demma et al., “High Stakes in Coven War." 

56. Bass, "Animal Activists: Target of Covert 

57. Ibid. 

Chapter Six: Divide and Conquer 

1. Michael Levine, Guerrilla PR; How You 
Can Wage an Effectiiv Publicity Campaign 

. Without Going Broke (New York: 
HarperCollins, 1993), p. 46. 

2. Jane Meredith Adam, “MADD Founder 
Lightner Takes Job As Lobbyist for Liquor 
Industry," Chicago Tribune, Jan. 15. 1994. 
Section 1, p. 3. 

3. "Take An Activist Apart and What Do You 
Have?" CALF News Cattle Feeder, June, 
1991. p. 9 & 14. 

4. Ibid. 

5. “Green PR is Dollars and Sense Issue," 
O'Duyer’s PR Services Report, Feb. 1994, 
p. 6. 

6. "Links with Activist Groups Get Results in 
Environmental PR," O' Dwyer's PR Services 
Reprrrt, Feb. 1994, p. 1. 

7. Ibid. 

8. Ibid., p. 20. 

9. Ibid., p. 22. 

10. The Public Affairs Council 1993. p. 18-23- 

11. Foundation for Public Affairs, 1993-1994 
Annual Report, p. 2. 

12. Foundation for Public Affairs, 1992-1993 
Annual Refxrrt, p. 5. 

13- Foundation for Public Affairs, Public Inter- 
est Profiles 1992-93. PP v-x. 

14. Conference Call, Annual Conference on 
Activist Groups and Public Policymaking: 
Agendas, Strategies, and Alliances With 
Business, Washington, DC, Oct. 20-21, 

15. Ibid. 

16. Annual Conference on Activist Groups and 
Public Policymaking, Oct. 20-21, 1993. 
Speakers & Registrants. 

17. “Taint of Tobacco," Multinational Monitor, 
July/Aug. 1993- 

Notes, pages 53-89 


18. News release from the Safe Food Coalition, 
Nov. 4, 1994. 

19. Interview with Carol Tucker Foreman. 

20. Sheila Kaplan, “Porter/Novelli Plays All 
Sides,- Legal Times, Vol. XVI, No. 27, 
Nov. 22, 1993, pp. 1, 21-23. 

21. Ibid. 

22 Press kit from Hill & Knowlton on behalf 
of Partners for Sun Protection Awareness, 

23. Video News Release, Press kit from Hill & 
Knowlton on behalf of Partners for Sun 
Protection Awareness, 1994. 

24. ‘'Profiles of Top Environmental PR Firms: 
Hill & Knowlton," ODuyer's PR Services 
Report, Feb. 1994, p. 40. 

25. Business for Social Responsibility, 1995 
Memlrership Directory. 

26. Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Craig Cox. 

27. Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Bob Dunn. 

28. Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Craig Cox. 

29. “Corporate Do-goodism’ Helps Win Con- 
sumers’ Hearts and Cash," O’Duyer's 
Washington Report, May 5, 1994, p. 7. 

30. Business for Social Responsibility, 1995 
Membership Directory ». 

31 Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Craig Cox. 

32. Anita Roddick, Body and Soul: Profits with 
Principles, the Amazing Success Story of 
Anita Roddick & The Body Shop (New 
York: Crown Publishers, 1991). audiotape. 

33- Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Jon Entine. 

34. Ibid. 

35. Ibid. 

36. Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Craig Cox. 

37. Ibid. 

38. Interview conducted by Rob Inerfeld with 
Jon Entine. 

39. Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce. 
A Declaration of Sustainability, (Harper- 
Business, 1993). p. xiii. 

Chapter Seven: 

Poisoning the Grassroots 

1. Benjamin Franklin. “Information to Those 
Who Would Remove to America." from 
Franklin s Autobiography. Reprinted in 
Great American Essays, edited by Norman 
Cousins with Frank Jennings (New York: 
Dell Publishing. 1967). p. 22. 

2. Keith Bradsher. “Gap in Wealth in US 
(allied Widest in the West," New York 
Times. April 17, 1995. p. 1. 

3. Bill Clinton. State of the Union address, 
Feb. 24, 1995. 

4. “Grassroots Lobbying Glossary." Cam- 
paigns & Elections. Dec./Jan. 1995, p. 22. 

5 William Greider. Who Will Tell The People 
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992). 
p. 35. 

6. Back cover advertisement, Campaigns & 
Elections, Dec./Jan. 1995. 

7. Trento, The Pouer House, p. 75. 

8. Interview with Matt Reese. 

9- "Grasstops: The Ultimate in Corporate 
Legislative Leverage, Public Policy Ser- 
vices,” from Reese Communications Com- 

10. Ibid. 

11. Ron Faucheux, "The Grassroots Explo- 
sion," Campaigns & Elections, Dec./Jan. 
1995. p. 20. 

12. Greider. p. 11. 

13. Ibid., pp. 35-39. 

14. Guy Gugliotta, “A Man Who Fertilizes the 
Grass Roots," Washington Post, Aug. 23, 
1994, A17. 

15. Stephen Engelberg, “A New Breed of 
Hired I lands Cultivates Grass-roots Anger," 
New York Times. March 17. 1993, pp. 1. 11. 

16. Greider, pp. 35-36. 

17. Joyce Nelson, Sultans of Sleaze (Monroe, 
ME: Common Courage Press, 1989), 
pp. 74-75. 

18. Dilenschneider, p. 111. 

19. Mike Malik speaking at “Shaping Public 
Opinion: If You Don’t Do It. Somebody 
Else Will." in Chicago, December 9. 1994. 

20. Ibid. 

21. Ralph Reed speaking on “State-of-the-art 
Grassroots: The Christian Coalition Model,” 
at Public Affairs Council conference. Sara- 
sota, FL, Feb. 7, 1994. 

22. ibid. 

23. Neal Cohen speaking on "Coalitions and 
Ally IX'velopment: The New Imperative 
In Public Policy Work" at Public Affairs 
Council conference, Sarasota, FL, Feb. 7, 

24. Michael Dunn speaking on "Charting a 
Course for Grassroots Success," at Public 
Affairs Council conference, Sarasota, 
Florida, Feb. 7, 1994. 

25. Ibid. 

26. Advertisement, Campaigns & Elections, 
Dec./Jan. 1995, p. 4. 



27. John Davies speaking at “Shaping Public 
Opinion: If You Don't Do It. Somebody 
Else Will," in Chicago. Dec. 9, 1994. 

28. Ibid. 

29. Pamela Whitney at “Shaping Public Opin- 
ion: If You Don’t Do It, Somebody Else 
Will." in Chicago. Dec. 9, 1994. 

30. Ibid. 

31. “Public Interest Pretenders," Consumer 
Refxtrts, May, 1994. 

32. Ibid. 

33- David B. Kinsman, "What’s Ahead for 
Public Affairs Officers in ’94," Impact, 
Dec. 1993. p. 2. 

34. Eric A. Rennie, “Grassroots: Mobilizing 
Your Extended Family’: the Pros and 
Cons," Impact, April, 1994. 

35. Kinsman, p 3. 

36. James Fallows, "A Triumph of Misinforma- 
tion," The Atlantic, Vol. 275, No. 1. p. 28. 

37. “RX Partners," in promotional information 
from Beckel Cowan. 

38. Robert Hoopes speaking at "Shaping 
Public Opinion: If You Don’t Do It, Some- 
body Else Will,” in Chicago, Dec. 9. 1994. 

39. Ibid. 

40. “Public Interest Pretenders,” p. 317. 

41. Thomas Scarlett, “Killing Health Care 
Reform," Campaigns & Elections, October/ 
Nov. 1994. p. 34. 

42. Blair Childs speaking at “Shaping Public- 
Opinion: If You Don’t Do It. Somebody 
Else Will," in Chicago. Dec. 9, 1994. 

43. Ibid. 

44. Robin Toner, "Harry and Louise and a Guy 
Named Ben," New York Times, Sept. 9, 


45. Blair Childs speaking at “Shaping Public 
Opinion: If You Don’t Do It. Somebody 
Else Will." in Chicago, Dec. 9, 1994. 

46. Ibid. 

47. Fallows, p. 28. 

Chapter Eight: 

The Sludge Hits the Fan 

1. Nancy Blatt. letter to John Stauber, May 3. 


2. Myron Peretz Glazer and Penina Migdal 
Glazer, The Whistle Bloii'ers, (New York: 
Basic Books, 1989), p. 135. 

3. Interview with Hugh Kaufman. 

4. Abby Rockefeller, “Sewage Treatment 
Plants vs. the Environment" (unpublished 
document), Oct. 1992, p. 1. 

5. Pat Costner and Joe Thornton, “Sewage 
Treatment Plants." We All Live Down- 
stream: The Mississippi River and the 
National Toxics Crisis, Dec. 1989. p. 35. 

6. Debra K. Rubin, Tom Ichniowski, Steven 
W. Setzer and Mary Buckner Powers. 
“Clean Water Act Debate Swirls On." Engi- 
neering News-Record, Vol. 227, No. 14, 
Oct. 7. 1991, p. 27. 

7. Ronald A. Taylor, “Clean- Water Campaign 
Springs Some Leaks," US Neil'S & World 
Report, Dec. 24, 1979, p. 59. 

8. Tim Darnell. "Till the Cows Come Home: 
Rural Wastewater Treatment Plants," Amer- 
ican City & County. Vol. 106, No. 10. p. 26. 

9. Rockefeller, p. 2. 

10. Gareth Jones, et al., HatpetCollins Dictio- 
nary of Environmental Science. (New 
York: HarperPerennial, 1992), p. 372. 

1 1 . Stephen Lester, “Sewage Sludge ... A Dan- 
gerous Fertilizer," Eieryone's Backyard, 
Oct. 1992, p. 9. 

12. Jim Wells et al., “Nuclear Regulation Ac- 
tion Needed to Control Radioactive Cont- 
amination at Sewage Treatment Plants," 
GAO Reports B-255099, June 23, 1994. 

13- “In Waste Water, the Talk is About Toxics," 
Chemical Week, Oct. 12. 1977. 

14. Costner and Thornton, pp. 35-37. 

15. Interview with Hugh Kaufman. 

16. “Recycling Sludge Onto Farmlands." Busi- 
ness Week, Nov. 7, 1977. p. 84B. 

17. “For WPCF: New Directions," Engineering 
Neil's- Record. April 10, 1986, p. 60. 

18. "Recycling Sludge Onto Farmlands." 

19. Geordie Wilson, “New Name Sought to 
End Grudge on Sludge, er. Biolife." Seattle 
Times, May 22, 1991. p. Al. Also see 
“WPCF Reports Strong Support for Name- 
Change Campaign," Sludge, Vol. 16, No. 9, 
April 24, 1991. 

20. "Water Group Plans Earth Day Launch for 
National Campaign on Biosolids Recy- 
cling.” PR Neuswire. April 21. 1994. 

21. Geordie Wilson. “Its Name Is Mud. So 
Sludge Gets a New One," Seattle Times. 
Jan. 31. 1992, p. Al. 

22. “WPCF Pins Hopes on Biosolids’ to 
Replace the Term Sludge." Sludge Vol. 16, 
No. 17, Aug. 14, 1991 

23- James W. Bynum, “EPA-Sludge: The Fox 
Guarding the Chicken House" (unpub- 
lished manuscript). May 8, 1995. pp. 3. 14. 

24. Debra K. Rubin, “New Name for an 
Old Group," Engineering News- Record, 
Vol. 227, No. 16, p. 9. 

25. “Water Group Plans Earth Day Launch." 

Notes ; pages 90- 1 18 


26. Paul Hodge, “Try ing to Cope With a 600- 
ton-a-day Sludge Problem. Naturally," 
Washington Post , Jan. 6, 1977. 

27. Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, 
promotional brochure for Milorganite, 

28. Melvin N. Kramer, Ph.D., executive sum- 
mary of testimony given Oct. 1, 1992 
IxTore the U.S. House of Representatives, 
Committee on Merchant Marine and Fish- 
eries, Subcommittee on Coast Guard Nav- 
igation, Hearing on Ocean Dumping 
Enforcement and the Current Status of 
Research Efforts, pp. 1-2. 

29- Dianne Dumanoski, "Specialists Debunk 
Claim of Sludge-Pellet Hazards. " Boston 
Globe, July 16, 1992. p. 27. 

30. Joseph Zinobile. letter to Environmental 
Quality Board. Harrisburg, PA, Dec. 27, 

31- Stanford. I.. Tackett, “The Myth of Sewage 
Sludge Safety," delivered at the Municipal 
Sewage Sludge Conference, State College, 
PA, May 21, 1994. 

32. Stanford L. Tackett, "The Sewage Sludge 
Scam, " Tfje Gazette , Indiana, PA, Oct. 2, 

33. Ibid. 

34. Interview with Alan Rubin. 

35. Jane Beswick, “Some Interconnected Per- 
sons and Organizations in Sludge" (unpub- 
lished manuscript), 1994. 

36. 1994 Annual Report and Form 10-K of 
N-Viro International Corporation, p. 1. 

37. Ibid., pp. 2-4. 

38. William Sanjour. statement to the Georgia 
State Senate Committee on Natural 
Resources. Feb. 14. 1990. 

39. Patricia L. Deese, et al., Institutional Con- 
straints and Public Acceptance Barriers to 
Utilization of Municipal Wastewater and 
Sludge for Land Reclamation and Biomass 
Production (Washington. DC: US Envi- 
ronmental Protection Agency, 1981), 
pp. 22, 27. 

40. Ibid., pp. 3. 33-34. 

41. Kelly Sarber, “How to Strategize for Suc- 
cessful Project Development." BioCycle, 
April. 1994. p 32-35. 

42. Ibid. 

43. Ibid. 

44. Dennis Hevesi, “Investigation Begun Into 
New York City Sludge Removal Program," 
New York Times. April 16. 1992, p. B3. 

45. "Ocean & Medical Waste Dumping, P.L. 
100-688," Legislative History, Senate Report 
No. 100-431 , pp. 5869-5872. 

46. Kevin Flynn, "Sludge Withdrawals Leave 
City Mired," Neivsday, Nov. 15. 1991. p 21. 

47. "Oklahoma Places Moratorium on Sludge 
from Out-of-State," Sludge. Vol. 17, No. 9, 
April 22, 1992. 

48. Michael Specter, “Ultimate Alchemy: 
Sludge to Gold: Big New York Export May 
Make Desert, and Budget, Bloom," Netv 
York Times. Jan. 25, 1993. p. Bl. 

49. Michael Moss, "Officials Seek Probe on 
Sludge Haulers," Newsday, Feb. 4, 1991. 
p. 21. 

50. Kevin Flynn. “Sludge Plan Probe: DA 
Checks Ties Between Firms and Politi- 
cians," Newsday, April 15. 1992, p. 23- 

51. Kevin Flynn. Tom Curran and Kathleen 
Kerr, "Mobster: Sludge Firm Tied to Crime 
Family," Newsday, June 4, 1992, p. 1 10. 

52. Selwyn Raab, "Mafia Tale: Looting the Steel 
of the West Side Highway," New York 
Times, May 9. 1993. Section 1, p. 27. 

53- Kevin Flynn and Michael Moss, “Stink 
Over Sludge: Arizona Says City’s Waste 
Contaminated," Newsday, Aug. 2, 1994, 
p. AOS. 

54. Ibid. 

55. Kevin Flynn, “City Sludge Plan Kept Under 
Wraps," Neivsday, Dec. 10, 1991, p. 21. 

56. Keith Bagwell. “Sewer Sludge from NYC is 
Deposited on Farmland." Arizona Daily 
Star. May 22, 1994. p. IB. 

57. Keith Bagwell, “Tainted Sludge Used for 
Years on Pima Farms,” Arizona Daily Star, 
Oct. 2, 1994. p. IB. 

58. Bagwell, “Sewer Sludge from NYC." 

59. Keith Bagwell, “Sludge Test Could Result 
in Cleanup," Arizona Daily Star. June 25, 
1994, p. IB. 

60. Keith Bagwell, “Sludge is Found to Harbor 
Germs Far Beyond Limit," Arizona Daily 
Star. July 28, 1995. 

61. “Texas County Tempted by Financial 
Rewards of Dumps," National Public Radio 
All Things Considered, March 21, 1994, 
Transcript *1428-6. 

62. Sludge, Sept. 27, 1994. 

63 Maggie Rivas. “W. Texans Fight to Reject 
Dumping Sites: Climate to Store Nuclear 
Waste. Sludge Called Ideal,” The Dallas 
Morning News, March 20, 1994, p. 4 5 A. 

64. “Abraham Angry With TNRCC,” Texas 
Industry Environmental Advisor, Vol. 7, 
No. 4, Feb. 25. 1994. 

65. Michael Moss and Kevin Flynn, "Flushing, 
Texas: Exported City Sludge is Tainted." 
Newsday, Aug. 3. 1994, p. 7. 



66. Transcript of TV Nation program, NBC 
Television, Aug. 2, 1994. 

67. Ibid. 

68. “EPA Whistleblower, Sony Inc. Named in 
$33 Million Libel Suit," BNA Chemical Reg- 
ulation Daily, Jan. 6. 1995. 

69- "Whistleblower Seeks Special Prosecutor, 
Alleges Obstruction in Texas Sludge Case," 
BNA National Environment Daily. April 5. 

70. Timothy M. Straub, et al., “Hazards from 
Pathogenic Microorganisms in Lind-Dis- 
posed Sewage Sludge," Reviews of Envi- 
ronmental Contamination ami Toxicology. 
Vol. 132, (New York: Springer-Verlag, 
1993). p. 55-91. 

71. Ibid. 

72. Letter from Kenneth Dobin to Sandra 
Messner, Feb. 10, 1994. 

73. “Community Organizers: Some Compost- 
ing Sites Could Be Harming Neighbors' 
Health," Sludge. Vol. 19, No. 7, March 29. 

74. Interview with Ed Rollers. 

75. Ed Merriman, “Farmers, Public Warned of 
Sludge Danger," Capital Press, July 19, 
1991, p. 3. 

76. Statement of Karl Schurr, presented to the 
Coshocton County Board of Health, 
Coschocton, OH, Nov. 1992. 

77. Gene Logsdon, "Public Acceptance: How 
Does Society Learn About Sludge Safety?" 
BioCycle. May 1992. 

78. "Acceptance Strategy Should Include 
World Wide Web Sit, Media Relations," 
Sludge, Vol. 20, No. 16, Aug. 1. 1995. 
p. 127 

79. Letter from J.M. Dryer, Heinz USA, to Jane 
Shumaker. Nov. 19. 1992. 

80. Letter from Chris Meyers, Del Monte, to 
Alice Gallagher. March 24, 1995. 

81. Interview with Rick Jarman. 

82. Interview with Brian Baker. 

Chapter Nine: Silencing Spring 

1. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. (New York: 
Houghton Mifflin, 1962). 

2. Frank Graham, Jr.. Since Silent Spring. 
(New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1970), pp. 

3. “Monsanto Chemical Company published 
a rebuttal to Rachel Carson s Silent Spring," 
PR News Casebook. (Detroit: Gale 

Research, 1993) p B9 

4. Janet Raloff, “Beyond Estrogens." Science 
News, Vol. 148.’ No. 3. July 15. 1995, 
pp. 44-46. 

5. E. Bruce Harrison, Going Green. How to 
Communicate Your Company 's Environ- 
mental Commitment, (Homewood, IL: 
Business One Irwin, 1993). 

6. News release from E. Bruce Harrison, April 

14. 1994. 

7. O' Dwyer's Directory of Public Relations 
Firms 1994 , pp. 75-76. 

8. O ‘Dwyer's Director y of Public Relations 
Firms 1990 ; p. 220.' 

9. There is no exact figure; this is the authors’ 
best estimate, based on the estimates of PR 
industry observers. 

10. Kevin McCauley, "Going Green Blossoms 
as PR Trend of the 90s," O 'Dwyer s PR Ser- 
vices Report, Jan. 1991, p. 1. 

11. E. Bruce Harrison, “Managing for Better 
Green Reputations," International PR 
Review, Vol. 17, No. 3, 1994. p. 25. 

12. Rush Limbaugh, The Way things Ought to 
Be (New' York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 
p 167. 

13- Judi Bari, Timber Wars (Monroe, ME: 
Common Courage Press. 1994). pp. 98, 
135. 178. 

14. Carl Deal, The Greenpeace Guide to Anti- 
Environmental Organizations (Berkeley. 
CA: Odian Press, 1993). p. 84. 

15. Joe Lyford, Jr., “Trade Uber Alles," Propa- 
ganda Review, No. 11, 1994, p. 26. 

16. Howard Muson, “Winds of Change." 
Across the Board. June. 1994, p. 23. 

17. Ibid. 

18. Harrison, p. 8. 

19. Ron Arnold, "Getting Rich: The Environ- 
mental Movement's Income, Salary', Con- 
tributor, and Investment Patterns" (The 
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise. 
1994), p. 7. 

20. Harrison, p. 216. 

21. Keith Schneider. “For the Environment. 
Compassion Fatigue," New York Times. 
Nov. 6, 1994. 

22. McDonald s news release on PR Newswire, 
April 11. 1995. 

23. Tom Kuntz, “The McLibel Trial," New York 
Times. Aug. 6, 1995, p. E7. 

24. Mark Dowie, Losing Ground: American 
Environmentalism at the Close of the 20th 
Century (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995). 
p. 140.' 

25. Harrison, p. 277. 

26. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: 
'The Failure of Technology and the Survival 
of the Indian Nations. (San Francisco: 
Sierra Club Books, 1991), p. 131. 

Notes, pages 119-145 


27. “S.W.A.T. Team Blitzes the Nation," Mon- 
santo news release, March. 1994. 

28. Allen Center and Patrick Jackson, Public 
Relations Practices, 4th edition (Englewood 
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), p. 354. 

29. Peter Stisser, “A Deeper Shade of Green," 
American Demographics, March, 1994. 

30. Jenni Laidman, Bay City Times, Saginaw, 
MI, Sept. 12. 1994.' 

31 The Greet i Business Letter. Washington. 
DC, March 1994, pp. 1, 6-7. 

32. Ibid. 

33. Gregg Easterbrook, “Forget PCBs, Radon, 
Alar," New York Times Magazine, Sept. 11, 

34. Carl Deal, p. 62-63. 

35. Ibid. 

36. Earth Day — The Beginning, (New York: 
Amo Press & Neiv York Times, 1970), p. xv. 

37. Ibid. 

38. Arnold, p. 9. 

39. Interview with Bruce Anderson. 

40. Interview with Gaylord Nelson. 

41. Ibid. 

42. Interview with Bruce Anderson. 

43. Mark Megalli and Andy Friedman, Masks 
of Deception: Corporate Front Groups in 
America (Essential Information, 1991), 
pp. 90-93- 

44. “Profiles of Top Environmental PR Finns: 
Shandwick Public Affairs," O'Dwyer's PR 
Senices Report. Feb. 1995. p. 41. 

45. ODuyers Directory of PR Firms 1993. 

46. “Profiles of Top Environmental PR Firms: 
Shandwick Public Affairs," O Duyers PR 
Senices Report, Feb. 1995, p. 41. 

47. O Duyer s Directory of PR Finns 1993 ■ 

48. Interview with Jerry Klamon. 

49. Internal memorandum, Earth Day USA, 
Sept. 28, 1994. 

50. Terry Mollner and James Dixon, "The Earth 
Day Corporate Team," memo. pp. 7-9. 

51. John H. Cushman, Jr., “A Tug-of-war Over 
Earth Day *95.” New York Times. Oct. 29, 

1994. See also Jack Anderson and Michael 
Binstein, “Earth Day and Corporate Green- 
washing." Washington Post, March 27. 


52. “Working Draft — An Environmental Peti- 
tion to Newt Gingrich," Jan. 1995. 

53. “Don’t Get Hopes Up With GOP Con- 
gress." O’Dwyer's PR Senices Report, Feb. 
1995, p. 6. 

54. “GOP Set to Slash, Not Trash, Green Regs, 
Say PR Execs," ODuyers PR Senices 
Report, Feb. 1995, pp. 1. 8. 

55. Gregg Easterbrook, A Moment on the 
Earth, (New York. Viking, 1995). 

56. Advertisement, New York Times Book 
Review, April 16, 1995, p. 5. 

57. Peter Montague, “Rush Limbaugh With 
Book Learning," Rachel’s Environment & 
Health Weekly »437, April 13, 1995. 

58. Easterbrook, A Moment on the Earth, 
p. 255. 

59- Gregg Easterbrook, "The Good Earth 
Looks Better," New York Times, April 21, 

60. “New Environmental Grass Roots Sprout- 
ing," PR News, Vol. 51, No. 2, Jan. 9, 1995, 

p. 1. 

61. Stuart Auerbach, “PR Gets Entrenched as 
a Washington Business,” Washington Post, 
February 18, 1995, quoted in Joyce Nelson, 
“Great Global Greenwash," Covert Action, 
Spring 1993. p. 58. 

62. James Lindheim, “Restoring the Image of 
the Chemical Industry." Chemistry and 
Industry, August 7, 1989, p. 491. quoted 
in Joyce Nelson, “Great Global Green- 
wash," p. 57. 

63. “A Stealth Campaign by Timber Industry," 
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dec. 26, 1993, 
p. D2. 

64. “Kdclman Helps ‘Wise Use’ Group Get 
Coverage from DC Fest," O Diner's Wash- 
ington Report, Vol. V, No. 12, June 5. 1995. 

65. “Profiles of Top Environmental PR Firms," 
O Duyer s PR Services Report. Feb. 1995, 
P 31. 

66. Joyce Nelson, "Dangerous Anti-Environ- 
mental PR." sent to authors, 1995. 

67. Claude Emery. SHARE Groups in British 
Columbia, Canada Library of Parliament, 
Dec. 10, 1991, p. 20. 

68. Dean Kuipers, “The Gambler's Summit," 
Propaganda Review, No. 11. 1994, p. 17. 

69. I he Gnenpeace Guide to Anti-Environ- 
mental Organizations, p. 25. 

70. Kuipers, p. 21. 

71. David Helvarg. The War Against Tin* 
G reel is. The “Wise Use" Movement, VjeNeiv 
Right and Anti-Environmental Violetice, 
(San Francisco: Sierra Club Books. 1994). 
p. 358. 

Chapter Ten: The Torturers’ Lobby 

1. Sheldon Rampton, “Colombia: The Bosnia 
in Our Own Backyard," Z Magazine, 
March 1994, p. 34. 

2. Ibid., pp. 34-35. 



3. Barry Siegel, “Spin Doctors to the World," 
Los Angeles Times Magazine, Nov. 24, 
1991, p. 18. 

4. Kevin McCauley, "Sawyer Miller Ads Bat- 
tle Drug-Marred Image of Colombia." 
O 'Dwyer’s PR Services. Aug. 1991, p. 1. 

5. Siegel. 

6. Ibid. 

7. “Juan Valdez, Call Your Office," Netisuvek, 
June 20, 1988. p. 53. 

8. Siegel. 

9. Ana Arana. "The Colombia Connection: 
What Did Sawyer/Miller Do For Its 
Money?" Colombia Journalism Review, 
Vol. 31. No. 3, Sept. /Oct. 1992, p. 32. 

10. McCauley. 

11. Hampton, pp. 35-36. 

12. Ibid., pp. 37-38. 

13 Steven Gutkin, “Is Colombia's Drug War 
for Real?" Washington Post, July 22. 1995. 

14. Alex Carey, Taking the Risk Out of Democ- 
racy: Propaganda in the US and Australia, 
(Sydney, Australia: University of New 
South Wales Press, 1995), p. 12. 

15. Scott M. Cutlip, The Unseen Power. Public 
Relations: A History (Hillsdale, NJ: Law- 
rence Erlbaum Assoc., 1994), pp. 143*155. 

16. Ibid. 

17. Trento, p. 205. 

18. John Omicinski, “Capital Insiders Get Mil- 
lions from Rights-Abusing Countries," Gan- 
nett News Service, Dec. 14, 1992. 

19. “Agents of Influence," Ihe National Jour- 
nal, Vol. 24, No. 51-52, Dec. 19. 1992, 
p. 2904. 

20. Trento, pp. 209-210. 

21. Haiti: A Look at the Reality, (Hyattsville, 
MD: Quixote Center, 1993). 

22. Phil Davison, “'Shadow' Plays Dirty Tricks 
in Haiti," The Independent, Nov. 2, 1993, 

p. 12. 

23. Dick Kirschten, “Haitian Headache," 
National Journal, March 13, 1993- 

24. Nancy Nusser, “E\-Dade Politico Helps 
Haiti’s Army," The Palm Beach Post, Sept. 
3, 1993. p. 1A. 

25. Robert C. McCandless, Foreign Agents 
Registration Act statement. May 20, 1992. 

26. James Ridgeway, “Family Business: Haiti’s 
Behind-the-Scenes Warriors Come Out 
in the Open." Village Voice, Oct. 26, 1993. 

p. 22. 

27. Robert C. McCandless, “A Suggested Com- 
promise: To End the Haitian Embargo 
Stalemate" (attachment to a letter to US 
Rep. Charles Rangel), Aug. 13, 1992, p. 2. 

28. Robert D. Novak, ‘Why So Hard on Haiti’s 
Military'?’’ Washington Post, Oct. 21, 1993- 

29. Robert D. Novak, “Allegations About Aris- 
tide," Washington Post, Oct. 28, 1993- 

30. Ridgeway, p. 21. 

31. Don Bohning and Christopher Marquis, 
"Powerful Haitian Clan’s Tie to Peace 
Process Criticized," Miami Herald, March 
2. 1993, p. 1A. 

32. “Haitian Army: Docile Instrument of US 
Hegemony," Haiti Info, Vol. 2, »26, Sept. 
23. 1994. 

33. Gary Gunderson and Tom Peterson. "What 
We Think: American Views on Develop- 
ment and US-Third World Relations,’’ 
Needs, June 1987, p. 6. (This citation, along 
with footnotes 33-37, was quoted previ- 
ously in Liz Chilsen and Sheldon Rampton, 
Friends In Deed. Ihe Story of US-Nicaragua 
Sister Cities (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Coor- 
dinating Council on Nicaragua. 1988), pp. 

34. Nick Eberstadt, “The Perversion of Foreign 
Aid," Commentary, June 1985, p. 19 

35. Ibid. 

36. Andrew E. Rice and Gordon Donald, Jr., 
"A Constituency for Foreign Assistance," in 
U.S. Foreign Assistance: Investment or 
Folly?, ed. by Gerry Feinstein and John 
Wilhelm (New' York: Praeger, 1984), 
p. 358. 

37. Ibid., p. 360. 

38. Vincent Kavaioski, “The Alchemy of Love,” 
Foreword to Chilsen and Rampton, Friends 
In Deed. p. ix. 

39. John R. MacArthur, Second Front: Censor- 
ship and Propaganda in the Gulf War, 
(Berkeley, CA: University of CA Press, 
1992), pp. 51-53. 

40. Sheldon Rampton, “Soldier Tired of ‘Blow- 
ing Things Up.’ " Daily Register, Dec. 31, 
1983, p. 1. 

41. MacArthur. 

42. Ibid. 

43- Ibid. 

44. Sara Miles, “The Real War: Low- Intensity 
Conflict in Central America," NACLA Report 
on the Americas, Vol. XX, No. 2, April/May 
1986, p. 19. 

45. Rudy Maxa, "Managua, Nicaragua. Is a Hell 
of a Spot," Washington Post Magazine, 
Nov. 13. 1977, p. 5. 

46. Karen DeYoung, “Politics by Media in 
Managua: Self-described ‘Flack’ Helps US 
Reporters Understand’ Somoza," Wash- 
ington Past, Feb. 9, 1978, p. A22. 

Notes, pages 145-184 


47. Norman L. Wolfson, “Selling Somoza: The 
Lost Cause of a PR Man." National Review, 
July 20, 1979. 

48. Edgar Chamorro, written affidavit. Sept. 5, 

49. Miles, pp. 30-32. 

50. Ibid., p. 34. 

51. Ibid., pp. 40, 42. 

52. Robert Parry and Peter Kombiuh, “Iran/ 
Contra's Untold Story," Foreign Policy, No. 
72, Fall 1988, p. 4. 

53. Ben Bradlee, Jr., Guts and Glory: The Rise 
and Fall of Oliver North, quoted in “Gelb 
Fights to Restore USIA Satellite TV Net- 
work,” O 'Dwyer's PR Services, Oct. 1989, 

p. 1. 

54. Jack O’Dwyer and Jerry Walker, “PR 
Played Major Role in Events of Iran- 
Contra Affair," O Dwyer's PR Services. Jan. 
1989, p. 1. 

55. Ibid. 

56. New York Times, Aug. 13, 1985; Washing- 
ton Post, Sept. 3, 1985. 

57. O’Dwyer and Walker. 

58. Parry and Kombiuh. 

59. “Alleged ‘White Propaganda’ of S/LPD Crit- 
icized by Comptroller General," O’Divyer’s 
PR Services, Jan. 1989, p. 42. 

60. Parry and Kombiuh, p. 25. 

61. Ibid. 

62. Washington Post, March 1986. 

63. Ronald Reagan, televised presidential 
address, March 16, 1986. 

64. Trento, chapter 12. 

65. Jack O’Dwyer, “Glenn Souham, Son of PR 
Exec, is Youthful Victim of Iran-Contra 
Affair," O 'Dwyer ’s PR Services, March 1989, 

p. 10. 

66. Judy Butler, interview with George Vuke- 
lich.Jan. 1987. 

67. “Gelb Fights to Restore USIA Satellite TV 
Network," O' Dwyer's PR Services, Oct. 

1989, p. 1. 

68. “Harrison, Who Accused Four PRSA Mem- 
bers, Resigns," O Dwyer 's PR Services, May 

1990, p. 34. See also “PRSA/DC May Hold 
Debate on CIA Ethics Case," O ’Dwyer’s PR 
Sewices, Aug. 1989. 

69. MacArthur. 

70. Ibid. 

71. Hal D. Steward, “A Public Relations Plan 
for the US Military in the Middle East," 
Public Relations Quarterly, Winter 1990-91, 
p. 10. 

72. “H&K leads PR charge in behalf of Kuwaiti 
cause,’’ ODuyer's PR Services Report, 
Vol. 5. No. 1, Jan. 1991, p.8. 

73. “Citizens for Free Kuwait Files with FARA 
After a Nine-month Lag," O Duyer’s FARA 
Report, Vol. 1, No. 9, Oct. 1991, p. 2. See 
also Arthur E. Rowse, “Flacking for the 
Emir," The Progressive, May, 1991, p. 22. 

74. O Dwyer's FARA Report, Vol. 1, No. 9, Oct. 

1991. pp. 2. 

75. O’Dwyer’s PR Services Report, Vol. 5, No. 1, 
Jan. 1991, pp. 8, 10. 

76. Ibid., p. 1. 

77. Rowse, pp. 21-22. 

78. Martin A. Lee & Norman Solomon, Unre- 
liable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in 
News Media (New York: Lyle Stuart, 1991), 
p. xvii. 

79. Transcript, "To Sell A War", pp. 3-4. 

80. MacArthur, p. 60. 

81. Ibid. 

82. Ibid., p.58. 

83. Ibid. 

84. Ibid., p. 54. 

85. New York Times/'CBS Neivs poll, as reported 
in ODuyer’s PR Senices Report. Jan. 1991, 

p. 10. 

86. “To Sell A War,” pp. 4-5. 

87. MacArthur, p. 7. 

88. Lee & Solomon, p. xix. 

89. Herminio Rebollo and Leticia Rodriquez, 
“Mexico Spent $56 Million to Promote 
NAFTA in the US,” El Financiero Inlema- 
cional, April 19, 1993, p. 10. 

90. Christopher Whalen, Ihe Mexico Report, 
Aug. 3, 1994, p. 14. Also telephone inter- 
view with Whalen, Aug. 9, 1994. 

91. Interview with Carlos Diaz in Burson- 
Marsteller’s offices in Mexico City, Aug. 12, 

92. Jim Cason and David Brooks, “La Situacion 
en Mexico no se Percibe en EU,” Ixi Jor- 
nada, Aug. 13, 1995, p. 8. 

93. Luis Javier Garrido, “El Fraude Imperfecto," 
La Jornada, Aug. 26, 1995, P- 14. 

94. Richard Simpson, et al., “Report on Low- 
Intensity Conflict in Marquez de Comillas," 
Global Exchange, July 5, 1995. 

Chapter Eleven: 

All the News that’s Fit to Print 

1. Ben Bagdikian, Tlje Media Monopoly, 4th 
edition, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1992), 
p. xxvii. 

2. Interview with Ben Bagdikian. 

3. Buck Donham, “All the Criticism of Jour- 
nalism" (internet posting to alt. journalism, 
criticism), March 3, 1995. 



4. Jeff and Marie Blyskal, PR: How the Public 
Relations Industry Writes the News, (New 
York: William Morrow & Co., 1985), p. 28. 

5 Interview with Pam Bems. 

6. PR Newswire promotional material, 1994. 

7. North American Precis Syndicate promo- 
tional material, 1994. 

8. RadioUSA promotional material, 1994. 

9. Interview with Bob Goldberg, president of 
Feature Photo Service. 

10. Trento, p. 245. 

11. David Lieberman, “Fake News," TV Guide, 
Feb. 22-28, 1992, p. 10. 

12. George Glazer, “Let’s Settle the Question 
of VNRs," Public Relations Quarterly, 
Spring 1993. 

13- Trento, p. 231, 233. 

14. Speech by Rotbart at Nov. 1993 PRSA con- 

15. TJFR promotional material. 

16. TJFR Environmental News Reporter, Feb. 

17. Rowan and Blewitt report to National 
Dairy Board, July 13, 1989. 

18. CARMA report to National Dairy Board, 
May-Aug. 1989. 

19. “12 Reporters Help Shape Pesticides PR 
Policies,” Environment Writer, Vol. 6, No. 
11, National Safety Council, Washington, 
DC. Feb. 1995, pp. 1, 4-5. 

20. Ibid. 

21. Dashka Slater, “Dress Rehearsal for Disas- 
ter," Sierra, May/June 1994, p. 53. 

22. Promotional information. Video Monitor- 
ing Services, 1994. 

23. Jonathan Rabinovitz. “Computer Network 
Helps Journalists Find Academic Experts." 
Neu> York Times, May 23, 1994. 

24. Howard Kurtz, “Dr. Whelan's Media Oper- 
ation,” Columbia Journalism Review, 
March/April 1990. 

25. Ibid. See also Ann Reilly Dowd, “Envi- 
ronmentalists Are on the Run,” Fortune, 
Sept. 19, 1994, p. 92. 

26. Rhys Roth, No Suvat Netvs, Olympia. WA, 
Fall 1992. 

27. David Shaw. “Feeling Bombarded by Bad 
News," Los Angeles Times, Sept. 11, 1994. 

28. Samuel S. Epstein, “Evaluation of the 
National Cancer Program and Proposed 
Reforms," American Journal of Indepen- 
dent Medicine, No. 24, 1993. pp 102-133- 

29. David Steinman, “Brainwashing Green- 
washers: Polluting Industries Are Waging 
a Long-Term Disinformation Campaign to 
Attack the Environmentalist Agenda," LA 
Village View, Nov. 18-23. 1994, pp. 11-12. 

30. Measures of Progress Against Cancer — 
Cancer Prevention, Significant Accom- 
plishments 1982-1992, The National 
Cancer Institute. 

31. Rick Weiss, “How Goes the War on 
Cancer? Are Cases Going Up? Are Death 
Rates Going Down?" Washington Post, 
Feb. 14, 1995. 

32. Cancer at a Crossroads: A Report to Con- 
gress for the Nation, National Cancer Advi- 
sory' Board, Sept. 1994. 

33. Blyskal, p. 34. 

34. Kim Goldberg, This Magazitw, Toronto, 
Aug. 1993. 

35. Ben Parfitt, “PR Giants, President’s Men, 
and B.C. Trees,” The Georgia Straight, Van- 
couver, BC, Feb. 21-28, 1991. p. 7. 

36. Dilenschneider. p. 177. 

37. Ronald K.L. Collins, Dictating Content, 
(Washington, DC: Center for the Study of 
Commercialism, 1992). 

38. National Journal, Oct. 9. 1993. 

39. “Resisting Disclosure," Political Finance & 
Lobby Reporter, Vol. XVI, No. 12, June 28, 
1995, p. 12. 

40. John Dillon, p.36. 

41. Trento, p. xi. 

42. John Keane, The Media and Democracy , 
(Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1991), p 63. 

43. Robert W. McChesney, “Information 
Superhighway Robbery." In These Times, 
July 10, 1995* p. 14. 

44. Kirk Hallahan, “Public Relations and Cir- 
cumvention of the Press," Public Relations 
Quarterly, Summer 1994, pp. 17-19. 

Chapter Twelve: 

Taking Back Your Own Back Yard 

1. Pamela Whitney speaking at “Shaping 
Public Opinion: If You Don't Do It, Some- 
body Else Will," in Chicago, Dec. 9. 1994. 

2. Ibid. 

3. Mark Falcoff, “Why Europeans Support the 
Sandinistas," Commentary, Aug. 1987. 

4. Leslie Wirpsa, “Poor Seek Ways Out of 
Nicaraguan Crisis," National Catholic 
Rej>orter, May 27, 1995. p. 7. 

5. Dovvie, p. 133. 

6. Jane Anne Morris, Not In My Hack Yard. 
The Handbook. (San Diego, CA: Silvercat 
Publications, 1994), p. 185. 

7. Dowie. p. 131. 

8. Carey, p. 20. 

9. Mander, p. 123. 

10. PR News, June 19, 1995. 


ABC, 57, 74, 167, 179, 194 
Accuracy in Academia, 141 
Accuracy in Media, 141, 165 
activists, 3, 12, 30, 31, 38, 46-47, 49, 51-55, 
57-63. 66-69, 72, 85, 87, 92, 108, 123, 
125-130, 132-134, 141, 199, 200-202, 210 
Addington, Bill, 117 

advertising, 3-4, 6, 13, 18, 20, 21, 25-30, 
40-44, 46, 74, 89. 92, 97-98. 130-131, 138, 
145-146, 161-169. 175. 182, 189, 193-194, 
196, 207-208, 211 

Advocacy Communications Team, 30 

Advocacy Institute, 69, 214 

Aetna Life and Casualty, 96 

agribusiness. 10, 123-124, 131, 135 

alcohol industry, 65-66 

Alex Carey, 148, 197, 202 

Alliance for America, 140 

Allison, Ed, 41 

Alsop, Dee, 171 

Ahamira Communications, 15 

American Academy of Pediatrics, 58 

American Airlines, 207 

American Beverage Institute, 66 

American Cancer Society, 28, 70 

American Civil Liberties Union, 69, 83 

American Council of Life Insurance, 93 

American Council on Science and Health, 

9, 189-190 

American Cyanamid, 55 
American Energy Alliance, 208 
American Express, 89 
American Federation of Teachers, 52 
American Heart Association, 29 
American Lung Association, 29 
American Medical Association, 58, 125 
American Nuclear Energy Council. 41, 43-44 
American Petroleum Institute, 93 
American Tobacco Company, 1, 25-26 
American Tort Reform Association, 96 
Americans Against Unfair Gas Taxes, 93 
Americans for Constitutional Freedom, 14 
Americas Watch, 144 
Ameritech, 68 

Amnesty International, 74, 144, 174 

Amoco, 142 

Anderson, Bruce, 134-135, 137 

Animal Health Institute, 57 

animal rights, 47-48, 60-64, 74, 127, 212 

Animal Rights Reporter. 60, 64 

antifreeze poisonings, 197-199 

APCO Associates, 87 

Archer Daniels Midland, 134-135 

ARCO Petroleum, 127, 188 

Argentina, 193, 207 

Aristide, Jean- Bertrand, 151-154 

Aristotle, 15, 66 

Arkansas Gazette, 182 

Armstrong, Donald, 1 16 

Arnold, Ron, 140-142 

Amot, Bob, 194 

Ashland Oil, 68-69 

Askari, Emilia, 187 

Associated Press, 184 

astroturf, see grassroots PR 

AT&T, 72, 80, 83, 136, 193, 208 

atomic energy, 33-46, 54, 83, 121. 163, 199-200 

Babbitt, Bruce, 97 

Bagdikian, Ben, 181, 193 

Bagwell, Keith, 115 

Bahrain, 169 

Baker, Brian, 122 

Baker, Howard, 50-51 

Baker, Jim. 179 

Baltimore Gas & Electric Company, 46 

Barnes, Fred, 194 

Bamum, Phineas T., 17-19 

Bartlett, Kim, 62 

Barton, Melanie, 115 

Baucus, Max, 103 

Bay City Times, 131 

Beckel Cowan PR, 79, 93. 95 

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, 71-76 

Bennett, Robert F., 50-51 

Bennett, Wallace, 50 

Bentsen, Lloyd, 79 

Bemays, Edward, 1, 22-26, 32-34, 202 
Berns, Pam, 183 
Bernstein, Carl, 51, 180, 194 
Beswick, Jane, 200 




Bey, Barbara, 93 
BGH, see rBGH 
Bidwell, Percy, 21 
BioCycIe, 121 

biosolids, 100, 106-107, 109, 112-113. 
121-122, 200 
biotechnology, 54-55 
Biscoe. Alvin, 53 
Bismarck, Otto von, 99 
bitterant. 197 

Black, Manafort, Stone & Kelly, 30, 150, 207 
Blatt, Nancy, 100-101, 105, 109 
Blyskal, Jeff and Marie, 183, 192 
Boeing, 68 
Boise Cascade, 140 
Boland Amendment, 162, 164 
Bonner, Ray. 68, 79, 81-82 
Boone, Pat, 164 
Boren, Frank, 127 
Borgia. Cesare and Lucrezia, 121 
bovine growth hormone, see rBGH 
Bowling. James, 163 
boycotts, 52-54, 210 
Bozell Worldwide, 208 
Bradlee, Ben, 162 
Brady, Robert, 148 
Brandt, Gregory, 152 
Brill, A. A., 26 
Bristol-Myers Squibb, 55 
British Columbia Forest Alliance, 14 
Brobeck, Stephen, 69 
Brosnahan, Timothy, 59 
Brown, Harold G., 12 
Brown, Kirk, 116 
Brown, Ron, 150-151. 170 
Brunner, Calvin, 202 
Bryan, Richard, 43, 93 
Bryce Committee, 156 
Bryce. Ronald K., 115-116 
BST, see rBGH 
Buchanan, Patrick, 165 
Buckley. Christopher. 100 
Buckley, William, 159 
Buffett, Warren, 25, 176 
Burford, Anne, 101, 118-119 
Burroughs, Richard, 56 
Burson, Harold, 3. 32 
Burson-Marsteller, 3, 14, 29-31, 57, 59. 68, 
79, 125, 138-139, 141, 150. 163, 175, 
192-193, 207-208 

Bush, George, 100, 110, 150, 153-154, 157, 
166-169, 171, 173, 179 
Business Ethics, 72, 75 
Business for Social Responsibility, 71-73 
Business Roundtable, 72 
Butler, Judy, 166 
Bynum, James, 106, 200 

Calgene, 55 
Cali cocaine cartel, 148 
California Certified Organic Fanners, 122 
California Raisin Advisory Board (CALRAB), 
5-8, 10 

Californians for Statewide Smoking 
Restrictions, 31 

cancer. 6-7, 10, 27-29, 31-32, 42, 55. 70-71. 

121, 124, 138, 191-192, 209-210, 212 
Canham, Robert, 105 
Carey, Alex, 148, 197, 202 
CARMA International, 187 
Carson, Rachel, 123-125 
Carter, Jimmy, 100, 170 
Casey, William, 162-164, 167 
CBS, 6, 23, 164, 173, 180, 185, 194 
Cedras, Raoul, 151-153 
Center for Investigation and Popular 
Education, 147 

Center for Media & Democracy, 206, 213 
Center for Science in the Public Interest. 70 
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, 

Central America, 158-167. 178, 200-201 
Central Intelligence Agency, 49-51, 153, 157, 

Chamorro, Edgar, 160 
Chamorro, Pedro Joaquin, 159 
Chamorro, Violeia, 166-167 
Chase Manhattan Bank, 135 
chemical contaminants, 7, 101-102, 104, 
116-117, 124 

chemical industry, 9, 45, 55, 123-125. 
131-132, 189, 191 

Chemical Manufacturers Association. 82, 131 
Chevron, 53, 141-142, 208 
Chiapas, 177-178 
Childs, Blair C»., 96-98 
chlorine, 209-212 
Chlorine Institute, 212 
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), 209 
Christian Coalition, 69, 83, 85-88 
Christianson, Andrew, 58 
Ciba-Geigy Corp., 53, 135, 142 
Citizen Advisory' Panels (CAPs), 132 
Citizens for a Free Kuwait. 169-173 
Citizens to Protect the Pacific Northwest and 
Northern California Economy, 139 
Clark, Kenneth, 163 
Clark, Sarah, 108 
Clausewitz, Carl von, 52, 65 
Clinton, Hillary Rodham, 73, 94 
Clinton. William, 78, 87, 94-98, 136-137. 

143-144, 150-154, 177 
Clorox Company, 72, 125, 209-212 
CMF&Z, 207 
CNN, 164, 185-186 



Coalition for Americans at Risk. 169 
Coalition for Health Insurance Choices. 
96-97, 214 

Coalition for Vehicle Choice, 125 

Coalition on Southern Africa, 53 

Coca-Cola, 190. 193, 207 

Coelho, Tony, 8 

Cohen. Ben, 75 

Cohen, Jeff, 179 

Cohen. Neal. 85. 87 

Cohn & Wolfe, 207-208 

Colby Zilg, Gerard, 12 

Colombia, 143-148 

Colson. Charles. 50-51 

Committee on Public Information, 21 

Commonwealth Edison Company, 38 

Communications International, 208 

community advisory panels (CAPs), 132 

Competitive Enterprise Institute, 69 

Compost Council, 110 

Cone/Coughlin Communications, 73 

Congressional Human Rights Caucus, 


Conservation Fund, 69 

Consumer Federation of America, 69 

Consumers Power Company, 46 

Consumers Union, 56-57 

Contract with America, 138, 140 

Cook, Susan, 121 

Coolidge, Calvin, 23 

cooptation, 65-76 

Coors Brewing, 125, 142, 164 

Coors, Joseph, 164 

Coppertone, 71 

Cosby, Bill, 6 

Costle, Douglas, 104 

Costner, Pat, 103 

Council for Agricultural Science and 
Technology, 135, 146 
Council for Tobacco Research, 27, 29 
Covington & Burling, 57 
Cox, Craig, 72, 73. 75 
Craig, Gregory, 153-154 
Cramer, William, 159 
Creative Associates International, 152 
Creel, George, 21 

crisis management, 3, 6-8. 19. 27, 38-39, 111, 
123-124, 157, 209-212 
Cronkite, Walter, 180, 190 
Crowley, Robert T., 49 
Curry, Don, 39 
Cutlip, Scott. 19-20, 22 
D' Amato, Alfonse, 114 
D’Arco, Alphonse, 114 
D’Arcy Masius, 208 
Dach, Leslie, 140 
Dairy Coalition, 57 

Davies Communications, 79, 89-91 

Davies, John, 89 

Davis, Ed, 43 

Dawson, Brennan, 30 

DDB Needham, 73 

DDT, 6. 104, 107, 109. 123-124 

de Tocqueville, Alexis, 202 

Deaver, Michael, 95. 140, 157 

Del Monte, 122 

Delahaye Group, 73 

democracy, 4, 10. 13-16, 24, 46, 77-79, 81-82, 
88-89, 94, 143, 146, 148-151, 161-162, 

166, 168, 174, 177-178, 180-181, 195, 197, 

Democratic Party, 8, 30, 50, 83, 86-87. 91, 

95. 97-98, 140, 145, 150, 169-170, 172 
Demougeot, George, 152 
Desert Storm, 174 
Didion, Dale, 67-68 

Dilenschneider, Robert, 38-39, 47, 54, 83, 

169, 193 

Dillon, John, 194 
Direct Impact, 59, 79 
direct marketing, 13, 30, 83, 89, 29, 97 
Disney, 182 
Dobin, Harry, 119 
Dodd, Christopher, 95 
Dolan, Roger, 107 
Dole Foods, 7 
Dole, Rolxm, 94, 153 
Dolphin Group, 31 
Donham, Buck, 182 
Doublespeak Quarterly Review, 106 
Dow Chemical, 68. H2, 125, 131-132, 135, 208 
Dowd, Ann Reilly, 190 
Dowie, Mark, 1.4. 130, 201-202 
Druck, Kalman B., 163 
drug trafficking, 143-148, 176 
Duchin, Ronald, 53, 66-69 
Dulles, Allen W., 49 
Dunn, Bob, 72 
Dunn, Michael E., 85, 88 
DuPont. 11-12, 54, 140, 187. 208 
Duvalier, “Papa Doc" and “Baby Doc", 151, 
153, 170 

Dykstra, Peter, 186 

Earth Day, 123, 128-129, 133-139 

Earth First!, 127 

East Timor, 172 

Easterbrook, Gregg, 132, 138-139 

Edelman PR Worldwide, 8, 57, 139-140, 208 

Edison Electric Institute, 42 

Einbinder, Liz, 13 

Eisenhower, Dwight. 34, 35 

El Salvador, 160, 178, 207 

Eli Lilly, 55, 208 

Ellis, Lisa, 59 



endangered species, 54, 131, 140-141 
Entine, Jon, 74-76 
Enviro-Gro Technologies. 112-113 
Environment Writer, 187 
Environmental Communication 
Associates, 132 

Environmental Defense Fund, 108, 127, 

environmental PR. 14, 67, 71, 91, 122-142, 209 
Environmental Protection Agency, 9. 99, 

101, 104-111, 113, 116-118, 121-122, 125, 

200, 212 

Epstein, Samuel, 191 
Escobar, Pablo, 145-146, 148 
Exxon, 38, 68, 89, 140-142 
EZLN, see Zapatista Army of National 

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), 

179, 213 

Falcoff, Mark, 200-201 
Fallows, James, 94, 98 
fascism, 22, 24, 148-149 
Faucheux, Ron. 81 
Faunteroy, Walter E.. 152 
FBI, 48, 64, 162 
Federal Express, see FedEx 
Federation of Sewage Works Associations, 
see Water Environment Federation 
FedEx, 72, 184, 186 
Feingold, Russ. 55 
Feral, Priscilla, 62 
Finch, Allen, 135-137 
Fitz-Pegado, Lauri, 170, 173 
Fleishman-Hillard, 139, 208 
Florida Power and Light Corporation. 38, 42 
Flynn, James, 43 
FMR Group, 93 
Fondahl, Laura, 116 

Food and Drug Administration, 9. 55-56, 69-70 
food safety, 6-7, 10, 14, 47, 54-56, 70, 105, 
122, 189 

Fore, George, 117 
foreign agents, 22, 50, 149, 169 
Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), 149, 
152, 169 

foreign policy, 143-178 

Foreman & Heidepreim, 57, 70 

Foundation for Public Affairs, 68 

Franco, Salvatore, 115 

Francois, Michel, 151-153 

Frankfurter, Felix, 24 

Franklin, Benjamin, 77 

Freedom of Information Act, 6, 58-59, 101 

Freedom Task Force, 169 

Freud, Sigmund, 1, 22-23, 26 

Friedman, Tom, 179 

Friends of Animals, 60-62, 64 

Fuller, Craig L., 157, 169-170 

Fuller, John G., 37 

Fulton, E. Davie, 107 

Fund for Animals, 60 

Gabriel. Richard, 157 

Garman-Squier, Cynthia, 9 

Gates, William, 176 

Gaviria Trujillo, Cesar. 146, 148 

GCI Group, 208 

General Electric, 3, 23, 36, 208 

General Foods, 50 

General Mills, 135 

General Public Utilities, 39 

Georgia-Pacific, 1 40- 1 4 1 

Germany, 21-22, 24, 148-149, 156 

Gingrich, Newt, 137 

Glaspie. April, 167 

Glazer, George, 185 

Glazer, Myron Peretz and Penina Migdal, 101 
Global Climate Coalition, 14, 125 
Global Exchange, 178 
Goddard’Claussen/First Tuesday, 97 
Goebbels, Joseph, 24, 149 
Gold and Liebengood, 207 
Goodman, Francis, 55 
Goodwin. Frederick K. f 48-49 
Gore. Al, 95, 133 
Gottlieb, Alan, 140-141 
Governmental Refuse Collection and 
Disposal Association, 202 
Grant, A.J., 132 

grassroots PR, 13-14, 29-30. 46-47, 59, 77-98, 
127, 139, 141, 197, 212 
grasstops PR, 80, 88 
Gravano, Salvatore, 114 
Gray cXt Company PR, 13, 14, 151, 165, 166, 

Gray. Robert Keith, 49, 80, 151, 170 
Given Business Letter ; 132 
green PR, see environmental PR 
Greener, William I.. Jr., 163 
greenhouse effect, 190-191 
Greenpeace, 74, 108, 127, 133. 140. 187, 

green wash, see environmental PR 
Greider. William, 79, 81-82 
Grenada, 156-158, 168 
Grenquist, Peter. 12 
Grey Advertising, 208 
Groves, Leslie, 34 
Guatemala, 150, 157 
Gullickson, Betsy, 5-8 
Gutkin, Steven, 148 
Haiti, 151-154, 170 
Hall, Kenneth, 9 
Hallahan, Kirk, 196 
Hannaford Company, 157 



Hansen, Michael, 55, 57 
Harding, Warren G., 21 
Harrison. E. Bruce, 68, 124-126, 128, 129, 
130, 139 

Harrison, Summer. 167 
Harshe-Kotman & Druck, 163 
Harvard Law School Human Rights Project, 

Hawken, Paul, 73, 76 
Hayes, Denis, 134 
Hayes, Jimmy, 169 

hazardous wastes, 6-7, 15, 37, 40-46, 89. 

100-119, 129-130, 132, 198, 200-202 
Health Insurance Association of America, 

68, 96 

health reform, 94-98 
Hearst, William Randolph. 19 
Heinz, 7, 122 
Helms, Jesse, 153 
Helvarg, David, 12 
Herbein, Jack, 39 
Heth, Joice, 17 
Hewlett-Packard, 94 
Hickman. H. Lazier, Jr., 202 
Hiebert, Ray, 20 
Hill, George Washington, 1, 26 
Hill, John. 25, 27, 33 

Hill & Knowlton, 3, 27-29, 33, 38. 47, 49, 57, 
67, 71. 75, 79-81, 83, 110, 123, 127. 139, 
150, 169-173, 175, 185, 193, 207-208; see 
also Turkey 
Hirsch, Leon, 60-64 
Hitler, Adolf, 22, 149 
Hoewing. Ray. 78 
Hoffman, Adonis. 151 
Hoffman & Associates, 75 
Hoge, Warren, 146 
Honduras, 160-161 
Honeywell, 72, 136 
Hoopes, Robert, 95 
Horblitt, Stephen A.. 152 
human rights, 143-144, 146-147, 150-152, 

159, 161, 167, 170, 172-174 
Humane Society, 56, 127 
Humber, Thomas, 30 
Hume. Brit, 179 
Hunt, E. Howard, 50 
Hunt. Nelson Bunker, 164 
Hussein, Saddam, 167-169, 171 
Huszar, Kenneth D., 163 
Hydro-Quebec. 136, 208 
I.G. Farben, 149 
IBM. 142. 208 
Ilgner, Max, 149 

Independent Insurance Agents of America 
(IIAA), 95 

Indonesia, 150, 172, 208 

Institutional Revolutionary Party, 175-177 
Inter-American Human Rights Commission, 

International Business Communications, 164 
International Confederation of Free Trade 
Unions, 144 

International Nestle Boycott Committee, 52 
International Organization of Consumer 
Unions, 53 

internet, 189, 195-196 
Iran, 162, 164-167 
Iraq, 167-168, 170-173, 175 
Irvine, Reed, 141-142 
ITT-Hartford Insurance Group, 93 
Izaak Walton League, 128 
Jackson, Gustav E., 69 
Jackson, Jesse, 97 
Jacobson, Michael, 70, 190 
Jarman, Rick, 122 
Jefferson, Thomas, 180 
Jerry Dryer & Associates, 57 
Johnson & Johnson, 193 
journalism, 2-3, 7-8, 13, 18-20, 41, 43, 51, 71, 
126, 146, 157-160. 164-166, 174, 179-196, 

Justicia y Paz, 146 

Kairys, David, 48 

Kamber Group, 73 

Kaplan, Sheila, 70 

Karpinsky, Gene, 69 

Katzin, Donna, 53 

Kaufman, Hugh, 101, 105, 118-119 

Kaufman PR, 59 

Kavaloski, Vincent, 155 

Keefe, Hugh F., 64 

Keep America Beautiful, 133 

Keep ’em Honest Coalition, 200 

Keesler, Allen J., 42-43 

Kehs, Michael, 138 

Kelly, John, 52 

Kelly, Michael. 161 

Kelly, Peter G., 30 

Kennedy, Robert F., 170 

Kennedy, Ted, 145 

Kemisan, Louis, 154 

Ketchum Communications, 5-12, 73, 125, 

Kidder Peabody & Co., 72 
Kikkoman, 7 
King, Larry, 8 
King & Spalding, 57 
Kinkos, 136 
Kinsman, John, 200 
Kirkwood, Robert C., 94 
Klamon, Jerry, 136 
Kornbluh, Peter, 162, 164 
Kostmayer, Peter, 91 



Kramer, Melvin, 108 

Kristol, William, 98 

Krupp. Fred, 129 

Kurtz, Howard, 189 

Kuwait, 143, 150, 167-171, 173, 175 

Kyshtym, 37 

labor unions, 20, 22, 48, 52-53, 78, 91, 114, 
144, 147, 153, 155, 211 
Laidman, Jenni, 131 
Lake, Anthony, 177 
Land O’Lakes, 135, 190 
Lantos, Tom, 172-173 
Las Vegas, 41, 43-44, 199 
Lasker, A.D., 25 
Latelle, Brian, 153 
Laun, Jack, 147 
Lauria, Tom, 32 
Lavelle, Rita, 118-119 
Lawrence, Bill, 34 
Lee, Ivy, 19-26, 149, 205 
Lee, James. 149 
Lee, Martin, 171 
Legal Times, 70 
Leslie, Jack, 146 
Lester, Stephen, 104 
Levett, Michael, 73 
Levine, Michael, 65, 214 
Levy, Ron, 205 
Lewin, Julie, 61-64 
Libya, 45, 165 
Lieberman, David, 185 
Ligget & Myers, 25-26 
Lightner, Candy L., 65 
Lilienthal, David, 33, 35 
Limbaugh, Rush, 97, 127, 181 
Lincoln, Abraham, 204 
Lindheim, James, 139 
Little, Clarence, 28 
Livingstone, Neil, 165 

lobbying, 13-14, 29-30, 32, 38, 41, 46, 48-49, 
57, 59, 68-70, 72, 78-81, 84-85, 89, 92, 
95-96, 98, 100, 105, 122, 125, 128, 134, 
137-140, 143, 150-152, 159, 169-170, 175, 
183, 185, 195, 199. 206-207, 214 
Logan, Terry’, 109-110, 121 
Logsdon, Gene, 121 
Los Angeles Times, 12, 191 
Lough, S. Allan, 36 
Louisiana- Pacific, 140 
Love Canal, 115, 118, 138 
Lucky Strikes, 1, 25-26 
Ludlow Massacre, 20 
Lukas, J. Anthony, 50 
Lutz, William, 106 
Lyford, Joe, Jr., 127 
MacArthur, John, 156, 172-173 
Machno, Peter, 105-106 

Mackenzie and McCheyne PR, 159 
Mackenzie, lan, 159 
MacMillan Bloedel, 140 
MacNeil-Lehrer Report, 164 
Madrid Merlano, Luis, 143 
mad cow disease, 56, 119 
Mafia, 153 

Mahoney, Richard J., 55 
Makower, Joel, 132 
Malik, Mike, 83-85 
Mander, Jerry, 130, 203 
Manhattan Project, 34 
Mankiewicz, Frank, 3. 75, 123, 170 
Manning, Selvage & Lee, 57, 208 
Marcus, William, 9 
Marlboro, 30 
Marquardt, Kathleen, 127 
Marro, Nicola, 58 
Marx, Gary T., 48 

Maryland Citizens Consumer Council, 58-59 
mass media, 3, 20, 37, 39, 42, 53, 57, 73, 
112, 146, 157, 162, 163, 165, 174, 175, 
177, 179-198 

mass psychology, see psychology 

Masters, Jon, 117 

McCandless, Robert, 152-153 

McChesney, Robert, 195 

McDonald’s, 47. 129-130, 133, 181, 193 

McDonnell Douglas, 80, 208 

McGovern, George, 170 

MCI, 207 

Mead, Marcus, 63 

Medellin drug cartel, 145 

media pools, 34, 157-158 

MediaLink, 185 

Meese, Ed, 14 

Menchu, Rigoberta, 150 

Merco Joint Venture, 113-115, 117-118 

Mertz, C.K., 43 

Metcalf, Joseph III, 157 

Methodists, 52 

Metropolitan Edison, 39 

Mevs, Fritz, Sr., 153 

Mexico, 50, 150, 175-178, 207 

Meyer, Cecile, 201 

Meyers, Chris, 122 

Meyers, Robert J., 188 

Michaels, lan, 116 

Miles, Mike, 54 

Miles, Sara, 158, 160-161 

Miller. Bob, 4 1 , 43 

Miller Brewing, 7, 82 

Milorganite, 107 

Milton, John, 5 

Milwaukee, 107 

Mississippi, 27 

Mitchell, George, 98 



Mobil Oil, 68, 82, 89, 142 
Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin, 47-48, 

53-55, 66 

Mongoven. Jack. 47. 51-54, 66. 68 
Monsanto. 54-56. 58-59, 69-70, 72, 124-125, 
131. 135-136. 200 
Moore, Michael, 118 
Morgan & Myers PR, 10-12, 57 
Monnon Church, 50 
Morris, Jane. 201 
Moser, Diane, 58-59 
Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 65-66 
Motorola, 208 

Mountain States Legal Foundation, 142 

Moyers, Bill, 70 

Moynihan, Daniel Patrick, 145 

muckrakers, 19, 180 

Mullen, Rolxjrt R. & Co., 50-51 

Mullin, Melinda. 12-13 

Murphy, Eileen. 194 

Muskie, Edmund S., 52, 91 

Mutua, Makau, 150 

N-Viro International Corporation. 110 

Nader, Ralph, 70 

Nasir al-Sabah, Saud, 143, 168, 173*174 
National Academy of Sciences, 1 22 
National Agricultural Chemical Association, 124 
National Association of Science Writers, 58 
National Audubon Society, 127, 128, 140 
National Cancer Institute, 29, 191-192 
National Catholic Reporter, 201 
National Cattlemen's Association, 66 
National Dairy Promotion and Research 
Board, 10. 12. 58-59 
National Education Association, 52 
National Endowment for Democracy, 166 
National Federation of Independent 
Businesses, 96 

National Food Processors Association, 

9, 122, 129 

National Grassroots & Communications, 

79, 91, 197 

National Journal. 30, 98, 194 
National Labor Committee, 153 
National Public Radio, 75, 170 
National Review, 1 59 
National Rifle Association, 84, 86, 141 
National Security Council, 162-164, 166, 177 
National Smokers Alliance, 14, 29-31 
national socialism, see fascism 
National Soft Drink Association, 190 
National Wetlands Coalition, 93 
National Wildlife Federation, 127-128 
Natural Resources Defense Council, 54, 71, 
127, 190 

Nature Conservancy, 127 
Nayirah, 173-174 

Nazis, see fascism 
NBC, 207 

Neddenien, Karl, 46 
Neill & Co., 169 
Nelson, Gaylord, 134-135, 137 
Nelson. Joyce, 83, 141 
Neptune Strategy, 53 
Nesd6, 51-54, 122, 208 
Nestle Coordination Center for Nutrition, 

Nestle Infant Formula Audit Commission, 52 
Nevada, 15, 41-44. 46, 93 
Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects. 43 
Nevada Initiative, 41-43 
Nevadans for Fair Fuel Economy Standards, 93 
New York Organic Fertilizer Company, 

New York Times, 8, 27, 34, 45, 49-50, 77, 82. 
97. 124, 129, 132, 138-139, 146, 156, 174, 
179-180, 184 

news media, see mass media 
Newsday, 114-115 

newspapers, 2-3, 15, 17-21, 27-29, 43, 77, 89, 
145-146, 160, 169-170, 180-184, 188, 196 
Newton, Charlotte, 121 
Nicaragua. 158-169, 200-201 
Nicaraguan Community Development Loan 
Fund, 201 
Nigeria, 150, 208 
Nightline, 57 

NIMBYism, 89, 92, 201-202, 204 
Nixon, Richard, 48, 50, 52, 180 
Noonan, Patrick, 69 
Noriega. Manuel, 157-158, 167 
Norman, Lawrence, Patterson & Farrell, 159 
North American Free Trade Agreement 
(NAFTA), 94, 175-176 
North American Precis Syndicate, 183, 205 
North, Oliver, 85, 162 

Northwest Atmosphere Protection Coalition, 

not in my backyard (NIMBY) groups. 

see NIMBYism 
Novak, Robert, 152-153 
Novell!, William, 70 
nuclear power, see atomic energy 
nuclear war, 49, 158 

nuclear waste, 7, 15, 33. 37. 40-46, 104, 117, 
119, 200 

nuclear weapons, 33-34, 37, 72 
Nukem, Inc., 44-46 
NutraSweet. 55. 190, 193. 208 
O'Dwyer, Jack, publications, 7, 67-68, 125, 

135, 138-140, 166, 169-170, 207-208, 


O’Neil, Larry, 59 



Obenauf, Gary. 8 
Occupational Safety and Health 
Administration, 31 

Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America 
and the Caribbean, 164-166 
Ogilvy, Adams & Rinehart, 208 
Ogilvy & Mather PR, 52 
Oligino, Nina, 71 
Omnicom Group, 208 
Ofiate, Santiago, 177 

Ontario Forest Industries Association. 141 
opinion polling, 13. 43. 57, 82-83, 96, 165, 
177, 189 

Optima Direct, 79. 83-85 
Oram, Kent, 41 

Organization of American States, 144, 151 

Ortho lawn chemicals, 55 

Oscar Mayer Foods, 7, 190 

ozone depletion, 71, 190-191 

Pacific LumlxT, 140 

Packwood. Robert. 98 

Pagan International, 53-54, 66 

Pagan. Rafael, 51-54 

Paine, Tom, 77 

Pakistan, 45, 150 

Paley, William, 180 

Panama. 157-158, 167-168 

Panetta, Leon. 177 

Parfitt, Ben, 193 

Parry, Robert, 162, 164 

Partners for Sun Protection Awareness, 71 

Patagonia, 76 

Patton, Boggs & Blow, 150-151 
PCBs, 6, 55. 104, 209 
Pennsylvania Railroad, 19-20 
Pentagon, 51, 157-158, 170, 174 
Pepper, Ian, 116 
Pepsi, 190. 193 

Perceptions International, 60, 62-63 
Persian Gulf, 169-174 
Pesticide Action Network. 53 
pesticides, 7-9, 53-54, 70. 72, 104, 119. 124, 
128-131. 135, 187. 190. 192. 199-200 
Pfizer, 136. 208 Manufacturers Association, 

68, 82 

Philip Morris. 10, 14, 29-31. 54. 68. 80, 84, 
100, 135. 163, 193, 207 
Phillips Petroleum. 142 
Picone, John P.. 114 
Playboy magazine, 14 
Poison Proof Project, 198 
Polaroid Corporation, 72 
Poley, Janet. 9 
Poli, Bonnie, 9 

politicians, 4. 13. 30, 41, 66, 78-81, 89, 103. 
109, 112, 130, 155, 170, 172, 204 

Porter. John, 172, 174 

Porter/Novelli, 57, 70, 208 

Portney. Paul. 191 

Powell, Jody, 100 

Powell Tate PR, 100, 101, 121 

PR Newswire, 183 

PR Seminar, 163 

Prentice-Hall. 12 

Prescott, Heidi, 60 

press agents, 13. 18-19, 23. 140, 149 

PR1. see Institutional Revolutionary Party 

private investigators, 3. 14, 48-49, 60, 

64, 179 

Procter & Gamble, 23. 136, 196, 208 
Profnet, 189 
Progressive, 170 
Project Censored, 194 
Pryor, David, 70 

psychology. 4. 13, 22-23. 25-26, 82-83, 

155- 156, 158, 160-162, 165, 168, 178 
public affairs, 161 

Public Affairs Council. 68. 78, 85. 93, 163 
Public Citizen. 70 

public diplomacy, 162, 164, 166-167 
Public Interest Profiles, 68 
Public Relations Journal, 29 
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), 
32, 73, 163, 167, 186 

Public Voice for Food and Health Policy, 70 
Quincy, Josiah, 77 
Quinn, Jane Bryant, 194 
R.J. Reynolds, 25, 125 
radio, 26, 160-161, 164, 173, 181. 183-184, 
188. 193. 195 
RadioUSA, 184 
Rainey. Jean, 8 

raisins, see California Raisin Advisory Board 

Ralston Purina. 136 

Raviv. Sheila, 59 

Raymond, Walter, Jr.. 162, 164 

rBGH. 55-59. 69-70, 187 

Reagan, Nancy. 100-101, 105, 109 

Reagan, Ronald. 101, 118, 140, 150-151. 

156- 157, 160-162, 164-165, 167, 169-170 
Reaves, Darryl, 152 

Reber, Jan, 60-61 

recombinant bovine growth hormone. 

see rBGH 
Red Cross. 21 
Reelx)k, 72, 193. 208 
Reed, Ralph, 69. 85-87 
Reese Communications, 80, 83 
Reese, Matt, 80 
Reich, Otto, 164 
Reilly, William, 1 10 
Rendon Group, 169 
Rennie, Eric, 93-94 



Republican Party, 8. 10. 41. 50-51. 86-87. 94, 
9H, 137-138. 140, 150. 159. 162, 170, 172 
Resources for the Future, 191 
Responsible Care, 131 
Reynolds. Don. 182 
Ribbentrop, Joachim von, 149 
Richards, Ann. 117 
Rietz, Kenneth. 30, 193 
Rifkin, Jeremy, 12-13. 56, 58 
RJR Nabisco. 68 
Robbins. John. 10-11 
Robelo, Alfonso, 164 
Roberts, Cokie, 194 
Robertson, Pat, 164 
Robinson Lake/Sawyer Miller. 

see Sawyer Miller 
Rockefeller, Abby, 102-103 
Rockefeller. John D. r Jr., 19-22 
Rockefeller, John D., Sr.. 19 
Rodale Institute, 110 
Roddick. Anita, 73-75 
Rollers, Ed. 120 
Roosevelt. Franklin, 24, 82 
Roosevelt, Theodore, 19 
Ross. Irwin, 23 
Ross, T.J., 19 
Ross. Thomas, 170 
Rotbart, Dean, 186 
Roth, Rhys. 190 
Rowan & Blewitt, 187 
Rowland Company, 208 
Rowse. Arthur. 170-171 
Rubin, Alan. 109-110 
Ruckelshaus, William. 110 
Ruder Finn, 208 
Rumsfeld, Donald, 163 
Rural Vermont. 58 
Rx Partners, 95 
Sautchi & Saatchi, 208 
Safe Food Coalition, 70 
Sakharov, Andrei, 17 
Salazar, Marcela, 144 
Salinas de Gortari, Carlos, 175-176 
Salinger, Pierre, 30 
Samper, Ernesto, 148 
Sandinistas, 158-160. 162-163, 165-168 
Sandoz, 10 
Sanjour. William, 110 
Sapone, Mary Lou. 61-64 
Sarber, Kelly, 111-115, 117-118 
Saudi Arabia, 150, 169-170. 174, 208 
Savage, Paul, 157 
Savimbi, Jonah, 207 
Sawyer, Diane. 167 
Sawyer/Miller Group. 145-146, 208 
Scalamandre, Peter, 114 
Scarlett, Thomas, 96 

Schering-Plough. 71 
Schippers, Eric, 30 
Schurr, Karl. 121 

Scripps-Howard Newspapers, 164 
Seagram, 208 
Segretti, Donald. 50 
sewage sludge, see sludge 
Seymour, Sarah, 60-61 
Shandwick PR. 125, 135-136, 139. 207-208 
Shaw, David. 191 
Shell Oil, 53-54, 68, 141 
Shephard, Alicia, 194 
Sierra Blanca, 117-119 
Sierra Club, 37. 71. 127 
Simon, William, 164 
Simpson, O.J., 183 
Slater, Dashka, 188 
Slovic, Paul. 43 
sludge. 99-122, 200 
Sludge newsletter, 121 
Smith. Fred, 69 
Smith Kline Beccham, 208 
smoking, see tobacco 
socialism, 19, 127, 141 
Society of Environmental Journalists, 187 
Solomon, Norman, 171, 175 
Somoza. Anastasio, 158-160 
Sonnenberg, Ben, 2 
Sony Entertainment Pictures, 118 
Sostman, David, 57 
Souham, Gerard, 166 
Souham, Glenn, 166 
South Africa, 53-54 
Soviet Union, 34, 37, 159 
spying. 3. 8. 12. 47-64, 66, 68, 149, 153-154, 
162. 188, 197-198, 203 
Stallings. Sonny. 86-87 
Standard Marine Services, 114 
Standard Oil, 19 
Steinnian, David, 6-9, 191. 199 
Steisel, Norman, 114 
Steward, Hal, 168 
Stitzenberger, Lee, 31-32 
Stolle, Ken. 87 
Slone. Peter, 30 

Student Environmental Action Coalition. 56 

Sullivan. Walter, 124 

Sun Tzu, 52 

Sununu, John, 9 

Swart, Betsy, 62 

Tackett, Stanford, 108-109 

Taco Bell, 72 

Tate, Sheila, 100 

TCI cable TV. 182 

television, 10, 13. 26, 40-41, 43, 91. 97, 126, 
145, 160, 164-165, 169, 171, 173, 181-185, 
188-189. 192-193. 195-198. 210, 212 



Texaco, 142 

Texas Beneficial Use Coalition, 117 
Theus, Leonard, 117 

Third World, 29, 35, 51, 74, 124, 133. 178 

Thompson, J. Walter. 3 

Thornburgh, Richard, 39 

Thornton, Joe, 103 

Three-Mile Island, 38-40, 42 

Time magazine, 33. 95 

Time- Warner, 72, 182 

Times Beach, 1 18 

TJFR Products and Service^, 186 

tobacco, 1. 4, 14, 25-32, 69, 72, 82. 84, 100 

Tobacco Institute Research Committee, 27-29 

Tobacco Society for Voice Culture. 26 

Tobin, Harold, 21 

Toner, Robin, 97 

torches of liberty, 1. 26, 32 

Tiaficante. James. 145 

Treichel, Judy, 199-200 

Trento, Susan B., 49, 80, 149, 151, 

184-185, 195 

Trump Organization. 207 
Trutt, Fran Stephanie. 62-64 
Tucker Foreman, Carol, 69 
Turkey, 150, 172 
TV Nation, 118 
Twain, Mark, 89 
Tylczak, Lynn, 198-199 
Underwood, Joanna, 127 
Union Carbide, 36, 53. 142 
Uniroyal, 135 
UNITA, 150. 207 
Upjohn, 10, 55 

US Department of Energy, 42, 44 
US Department of Health and Human 
Services, 9 

US General Accounting Office, 104 
US Information Agency, 170 
US Surgical Company, 60-64 
US Tobacco, 82 
USA Today, 164 
USDA, 9 

Vanderbilt, William. 19 
Vaughn, Suzan, 184 
Velsicol Chemicals, 124 
Vestermark, Seymour Jr. (“Bud"). 12, 47-49. 
54, 59-61 

Veterans of Foreign Wars, 66 
Viacom, 72 

Video Monitoring Services, 188 
video news release (VNRs), 2, 13, 40, 71. 

146, 169, 171, 184-185, 192, 211 
Vietnam, 131, 134, 156, 160 
Virginia Electric and Power, 38 

Virginia Slims, 26 
Vista Chemical, 125 
Vitto, Ron, 42-43 
Waghelstein, John, 158 
Wal-Mart, 91 

Wall Street Journal. 98. 171, 174, 186 
war propaganda, 21, 24, 149, 155-156, 
160-171, 178 
Warner-Lambert. 208 
Washington Journalism Review. 131 
Washington Post. 8. 1 1. 51. 82. 139. 153. 162. 
164, 180, 189 

Waste Risk Education Fund, 108 
Water Environment Federation. 100-101, 105- 
107, 109, 121-122, 127 
Watergate, -18-51. 180, 193. 195 
Watkins, James, 43-44 
Watt, James, 142 

WEF. see Water Environment Federation 
Weigand, Karl von, 24 
West Michigan Environmental Action 
Council. 46 

Western Livestock Producers Alliance, 136 
Western States Coalition. 140 
Westinghouse, 36, 38 
Wheelebrator, 112 
Whelan, Elizabeth, 9, 189-191 
Whitney. Pamela, 91-92, 197-199 
Wilderness Society, 134 
Williams, Don, 15. 41. 200 
Williams, John, 64 
Williams. Pete. 174 
Wilson, Pete. 8 
Wirthlin Group, 169-171 
Wisemen, 34 
WMX, Inc., 132, 134 
Wolfson, Norman L.. 159 
Woodcox, Rhonda, 115 
Woodward, Bob. 51, 180, 194 
Worden, George, 49 
Workplace Health & Safety Council. 92 
World Health Organization, 52 
World Wildlife Fund. 127 
WPP Group. 193, 208 
Wynder, Ernst L., 27 
Young & Rubicam, 3, 175. 193, 207-208 
Yucca Mountain, 41-44. 46 
Zakhem, Sam, 169 
Zander, Linda and Ray. 120-121, 200 
Zapatista Army of National Liberation 
(EZLN), 176-178 
Zarate. Cecilia, 147 
Zeigler, Kara. 54-55 
Zilg, Gerard Colby, 12 
Zinobile, Joseph, 108 

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